Woes of Border people

K D Maini

Poonch is a remote, border and far-flung district of J&K state. This mountainous District is located exactly on the Line of Control. Five out of six tehsils namely Balakote, Mendhar, Mankote, Haveli and Mandi are touching LoC. 103 km long Line of Control from Tarkundi in Balakote tehsil to Sawgian in Mandi tehsil is passing through the district. Out of 178 villages 123 fall within 5 km border belt while 41 villages are touching the LoC and bifurcating the district from PoK. Thirty nine percent population of this district resides in border belt which is vulnerable to shelling and firing across the LoC and affects adversely the normal life of the natives of this area. The developmental process does not gear up due to security risk because the shelling hits the civil population, villages and innocent people become victims, their houses destroyed, crops spoiled and cattle perished.
Majority of the population of this border belt belongs to Gujjar Bakerwal tribes and Phari speaking people whose livelihood depends upon agriculture and allied activities. One Chowdhary Shamas Din ex-Sarpanch of border village Degwar says ”they become hostages during shelling and firing across the LoC, their children couldn’t go to schools which also remains closed due to security threats and the ailing people can’t reach to health centers for treatment. Majority of the natives are doing labour oriented jobs to supplement their income but during shelling period they cannot attend the jobs in the field. The tribal families are not in a position to graze their cattle in the open areas. In these circumstances uncertainty prevails in border areas”. Since the position of the other border villages like Dharati, Dhurtti, Panjani, Sohala, Sussata, Ramlutta, Detote in Balakote tehsil, Darasherkhan, Goi, Dabsi, Mendla in Mendhar Tehsil, Salotri, Jhulass, Sarrian, Noorkote, Nakerkote, Dara Begyal, Degwar, Kerni, Manthar, Shahpur, Qasban in Poonch Tehsil and Khet, Chimber Knari, Sawgian, Gagrrian, Chool, Arigam, Nehrian in Mandi Tehsil is the same they also suffer due to this scenario. These villages which touch the LoC become the first target of shelling and firing across the LoC. During last four years the natives of these villages suffered a lot. 17 people died due to shelling and firing, , 27 shops in Gagarrian Madan were gutted. The standing crops in the field destroyed, a number of houses got damaged and cattle perished. Shadam Khan of Dharati told that inspite of all problems the patriotic people of border belt have not vacated their areas and they also help the security forces whenever needed.
During peak militancy days and disturbance on the LoC, in year 2000 when it became difficult for the people to sustain at vulnerable locations, two colonies for border people were established 500 families in Balakote block and 101 families in Kasban village in Haveli tehsil. The migrants were allotted land for houses, assistance for construction purpose apart from creation of infrastructure like roads, power, water supply, schooling facilities and health centers. However, no attention was paid, lateron, towards these colonies. The migrants also feel inconvenience because there is no provision and arrangement for their cattle.
Therefore, after 2005 when peace was restored on LoC for few years,these migrants shifted to their native villages. But after 2013 heavy firing and shelling again started and misères of border people increased tremendously. In this scenario, the Indian Government sanctioned 700 community bunkers and 1300 individuals bunkers for the natives residing near the LoC and vulnerable habitations so that at the time of shelling they could take shelter in these bunkers. The construction work is under progress. But there is a need of individual bunkers for every house situated in acute border villages especially those which are touching the LoC.
The road network is either scanty or not functioning properly. The schools and health centers are existing but due to disturbance on LoC they are not functioning properly. There are no avenues of employments in these areas except MGNREGA. However the labour class is not getting 100 days’ work in lean period, wages are not paid in time, assets created are not sustainable and neither work is up to the mark. Same is the position of other agencies. The officers avoid visiting these border villages due to security risk and thus the works are not being monitored properly. This is the reason that the people of border area are still economically and educationally backward as compared to the other areas.
No doubt, that a number of programmes, schemes and works are being executed by the security forces for the upliftment of border people.
The security forces and Rashtryia Rifles deployed in Poonch District are working on a number of schemes to uplift the people of border areas. These schemes include provision of solar lights, establishment of training centers, schools with quality education, sending of youth on Bharat Darshan Tour apart from health facilities to the natives of Border villages. One Javid Ahmed a student of border village told that he alongwith other students were sent to Bharat Darshan Tour and for the first time they got opportunity to see the industrial cities and heritage centers of the country apart from meeting the central ministers at Dehli.
As per the need of border people there is a need of residential hostels with schooling facilities for boys and girls at Bhrutti in Balakote Tehsil, Goi in Mendhar tehsil,Shahpur in Haveli Tehsil and Nehrian in Mandi Tehsil. There is also need of community centers at Balakote, Dharana, Kasban and Gagarrian for the promotion of folk lore, Sufiana Kalam. and local games like Binni, Bugdhar and Kabadi.
No doubt that reservation quota for the border people is available but the benefit of this quota is not percolating to the deserving persons. Such quota is always availed by those who have already left their natives villages and settled elsewhere. Therefore, the youth of only those families who are residing in border villages may be provided such quota so that the economic life of the people could be changed for the better.About 25 years back, a sub plan for the development of border villages was prepaid under the order of the then chairman of District Development Board in which there was a provision of power and water supply facilities to every house. Ambulances and test facilities in medical institutions located in border villages. Upgradation of motorable roads and link roads apart from creation of income generating units for unemployed youth. But this plan was not implemented due to unknown reasons.
No doubt that life and property of the border people is always at risk. Therefore cattle, crops, household and families may be brought under insurance schemes to reduce the miseries of these people. If the Awami Darbar under the chairmanship of DDC is organized in border villages, this will help in restoring the confidence of the people and monitoring the implementation of development schemes. Apart from normal flow of funds money is also provided under BADP to District administration and security forces. To avoid duplicitythere may be a joint venture from administration and security forces so that the appropriate schemes for deserving people could be framed and implemented. Inspite of all the problems, grievances and miseries, the neglected border people of District Poonch always remain patriotic, cooperative and helpful at the time of eventuality.


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