Sandwiched between Pak border & Ravi,an Indian village seeks to connect with mainland

Amid all the political heat and dust being raised in Punjab ahead of January 30 polls,residents of a village locked between Pakistan border on one side and Ravi river on the other are praying that it does not rain on the polling day.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Ghaniya Ke Bet (gurdaspur) | Published:January 16, 2012 3:41 am

Bereft of basic amenities,Ghaniya Ke Bet has seen only hollow promises by politicians

Amid all the political heat and dust being raised in Punjab ahead of January 30 polls,residents of a village locked between Pakistan border on one side and Ravi river on the other are praying that it does not rain on the polling day.

Nearly 700 odd voters of the Ghaniya Ke Bet village in Gurdaspur district,which falls under the newly carved Dera Baba Nanak constituency,had a tough time exercising their franchise in 2009 parliamentary polls when rains forced the Public Works Department to lift the Pontoon bridge that connects the village with the mainland.

The villagers went to the polling booth on the other side of the river in boats that are pressed into service when rains or floods raise the water level in Ravi.

And it is the lack of basic amenities and the promises by the politicians to address those that take Ghaniya Ke Bet residents to the polling booths election after election.

“But,every time after the elections,we find that promises made by every party,by every politician,ended up as hollow in the end. This time again,there are promises and we want to try our luck yet again,” says 60-year-old Jaswant Singh,who recalls how the fate of the village has remained more or less the same ever since he was a child.

To tackle with emergency services and cultivate hundreds of acres of fertile land around the village,the main demand of the villagers has been the construction of a permanent bridge to provide them with a link with the mainland to be a part of mainstream life.

In fact,the dream of the villagers had come very near to taking shape when the Ministry of Home Affairs had approved construction of the bridge nearly a year-and-a-half back at a cost of Rs 20 crore following a feasibility study report. But,inquiries by The Indian Express reveal that citing security reasons,the Ministry of Defence turned the proposal down. The Pakistan border is little over two kilometres from the site of the bridge that was proposed.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs had even sanctioned first instalment of more than Rs 7 crore,but the Defence Ministry rejected the proposal citing security reasons,” told PWD B&R Sub Divisional Officer (SDO) Harjot Singh. “In the design of the bridge,we had even made a provision of blast chambers,where army could have destroyed the bridge in case of any threat,” Singh added.

“We are sandwiched between Pakistan border on one side and Ravi river on other. There is danger from both sides and in the absence of a regular bridge,the danger is even more,” says Jasvir Singh,who works as a headmaster in a government school at Khwaza Vardag village. “I remember how the villagers had to cross the river by jumping into it during the 1965 and 1971 wars,” he recounts.

Even the Border Security Force (BSF) which has several Border Out Posts on the other side of Ravi feel that a permanent bridge would have helped the cause of force also. “The permanent bridge would surely be beneficial to us also,but BSF cannot do anything to make the proposal a reality,” a BSF official said,requesting anonymity.

Ironically,it is not the absence of permanent bridge alone that puts Ghaniya Ke Bet residents in a tight spot. The villagers also rue that the power supply to the village is far from adequate,even as they contribute significantly to the national pool of farm produce.

“It has been two years since 40 power meters were installed in the village. But,we never received the required power supply. What adds insult to the injury is that we are forced to pay the power bills despite the fact that we do not get adequate supply,” laments village Sarpanch Sukhdev Singh.

Though the village has a dispensary that operates till afternoon and a school up to Class V,the villagers are not satisfied with the facilities. “The village children have no choice to go to school on the other side of the bridge located far away. In the process,many end up as drop outs,” says Headmaster Jasvir Singh.

“We wish that it does not rain this time on polling day,as villagers had to use boats to cast their votes in last Parliamentary polls when Vinod Khanna and Pratap Singh Bajwa were pitted against each other,” the Sarpanch says.

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