5 relief camps made operational
JAMMU, Jan 30: Pakistan resumed heavy shelling in Nowshera sector of Rajouri district on the Line of Control (LoC) prompting the district administration to make five relief camps again operational in the town in which 700 to 800 border dwellers were camping while the State Government today deputed a high-level team to the border town for on-spot assessment of the “tense situation” after the issue echoed in the Assembly.
Late tonight, Pakistan resorted to heavy mortar shelling and firing at Dharati, Sohala and Panjani areas of Balakote in Poonch district. The Indian side retaliated effiectively, leading to heavy exchanges.
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Pakistan army suddenly started raining mortars and bullets with automatic and semi-automatic weapons targeting half a dozen villages and forward posts of the Army in Nowshera sector, forcing the Indian troops to retaliate effectively to silence the Pakistani guns.
Heavy exchange of shelling continued for two hours.
Sources told the Excelsior that several shells landed in populated villages but failed to cause any casualties. Educational institutions are already closed in the area in view of almost regular shelling and firing by the Pakistani troops. People remained confined to their houses and bunkers.
“Pakistan was reported to have suffered heavy losses in retaliatory shelling and firing by the Indian troops,” sources said.
Meanwhile, as the issue of shelling echoed in the Legislative Assembly today during Question Hour with BJP MLA from Nowshera Ravinder Raina demanding deputing of high-level team to the LoC for assessment of the situation and people’s problems, the Government deputed a team of top officers of civil and police administration to Nowshera sector.
Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Hemant Sharma, IGP Jammu, Dr SD Singh Jamwal, Deputy Commissioner Rajouri, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, Director Health Services, Dr Gurjit Singh, Director Rural Development Department and Director Animal Husbandry, Jammu among others visited various forward villages in Nowshera sector and relief camps set up by the administration and inter-acted with the people.
Hemant Sharma told the Excelsior that situation was “well under control” and is being monitored regularly to ensure that the people don’t suffer. “We inter-acted with the people to know their requirements,” he said, adding that shelling had stopped by this afternoon.
Deputy Commissioner, Rajouri, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said about 700 to 800 people were camping in five relief camps set up by the district administration, all of which have been made operational again. In May last year, about 4000 families had migrated from forward villages of Nowshera to the town. Now 700-800 were camping in the camps, Choudhary said, adding that the camps have started functioning and “we are providing ration to the migrants”.
The DC Rajouri said 72 bunkers have been handed over to the civilians in Nowshera sector and 28 others were under-construction.
Sources said the high-level team will brief the Government on its return from Nowshera.
According to sources, there was panic among the border dwellers in forward areas of LoC in twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch due to continued shelling and firing by the Pakistani troops, which has spoiled their life as they were unable to work in the fields while students were facing loss of studies as schools close to the LoC in some sectors including Nowshera sector have been closed due to Pakistani shelling.
Meanwhile, several MLAs today demanded that people living along the International Border should be extended reservations at par with the people of LoC.
The issue figured in the Assembly in response to a written question of BJP MLA and State party president Sat Sharma ‘CA’, who said people living on the IB were suffering same problems as those putting up on LoC and should be extended reservations. He said a Resolution to this effect had been passed in the Assembly earlier also.
BJP MLA from border area of Hiranagar, Kuldeep Kumar endorsed the demand for extension of reservation and other benefits to the people of International Border, which were being given to people of the LoC.
BJP MLA from Kathua, Rajiv Jasrotia said, apart from LoC-like benefits to the IB people, the Government should also pay compensation to the people, whose land was used for mining and fencing.
NC MLA from Mendhar, Javed Rana said even on LoC, some areas, which fall close to ALC, have been left out of reservation. He demanded that all such areas should be included for reservation and other benefits under ALC category.
BJP MLA from Chhamb, Dr Krishan Kumar said the people of Pargwal area in Akhnoor tehsil should also be extended benefits at par with ALC people.
In his reply to the queries, Social Welfare Minister Sajjad Ghani Lone said: “The International Border does not come within the definition of Actual Line of Control and hence the benefit of reservation for the residents of LoC can’t be extended to residents of the IB as it involves amendment in the Act/Rules. However, other reservation benefits are also available to the inhabitants hailing from the areas along the IB provided they are eligible to such reservations under the provisions of J&K Reservation Act/Rules.
“Meanwhile, in view of persistent demand, the proposal is being statutorily examined and screened by the J&K State Commission for Backward Classes. As soon as recommendations are received, appropriate action will be taken”.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh today described the situation along LoC as “very bad”.
Singh said that administration has been directed to provide safe shelters and other facilities to people who have migrated from LoC area in Rajouri.
Replying on the issue, Dr Singh said that “situation is very bad along LoC due to Pakistan shelling. As a result of the shelling, migration has taken place.”
He said that administration has been directed to provide all necessary facilities, safe shelters and ensure safety for people along LoC.