The Centre is yet to take up the matter of compensation for farmers in border villages who have been forced to evacuate just days before a bumper crop is due for harvesting.
“Crop is fully grown now, waiting to be harvested. If there is crop loss due to shelling from Pakistan side… You see agriculture is a state subject, the initial work of survey etc will have to be done by the state government,” said Minister of State for Agriculture S S Ahluwalia. Senior minister Radha Mohan Singh is currently away in his constituency in Motihari.
“The revenue officer will have to create a databank first,” the minister of state said. “There is already a provision for compensation for natural calamities but none for a war-like situation. We will certainly consider it but I can’t say that we have discussed the matter separately.”
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Following India’s strikes across the LoC last week, people in villages within a 10 km radius of the border have been asked to evacuate in preparation for any escalation in tension. For farmers in these villages, it is the crops due for harvesting in another 10 days and livestock that are of primary concern. In Punjab, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has appealed to farmers not to harvest the crop in a hurry and allow it to ripen.
In a state heading for polls, the government has been facing criticism with the Congress joining many villagers in questioning the rationale of the sudden move to evacuate villages without any contingency plan for the loss of crops or property. Former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, the state PCC president, recently came down heavily on the NDA government questioning a policy that allows trade with Pakistan to continue but forces villagers to leave their homesteads and thus creates an atmosphere of panic. He demanded adequate compensation for villagers.
Evacuation very rarely happens despite occasional exchanges of fire. There had been an evacuation at the time of the Kargil war. There had been massive crop damages then as villagers could not return to their fields for almost a year with the Army having laid landmines in the area.