Punjab: BSF allows farmers to visit fields across border, invites tourists to Retreat ceremony

The BSF informed that tourists are welcome to witness the ‘Retreat’ ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border, which was cancelled following the Army’s surgical strikes.

Written by KAMALDEEP SINGH BRAR | Theh Kalan/tarn Taran | Published:October 2, 2016 3:43 am
surgical strikes, india pakistan, indo pak, india pakistan border, india pakistan punjab border, indo pak, indo pak border, pakistan terrorism, india terrorism, india news Combine allowed to go in the fields for harvesting at Sadqi border post.. (Source: Express photo by Raakhi Jagga)

Amid Punjab government’s intense efforts to evacuate people from the border villages, the BSF Saturday lifted the ban imposed on farmers from visiting their fields on the other side of the fence.

Besides this, the BSF also informed that tourists are welcome to witness the ‘Retreat’ ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border, which was cancelled following the Army’s surgical strikes.

The decision to allow farmers to visit their agricultural fields has come as a big relief them who were worried about the fate of their paddy and basmati crops which are ready for harvest.

Earlier in the day, the BSF had given a two-hour window to farmers in Ferozepur and Fazilka sectors to visit their respective fields, which was later lifted. “

“We have lifted the ban imposed on farmers. Now it is up to them, if they want to visit their fields. From our side there is no restriction. They can go with their tractors and harvesting machines, wherever these are require”,” said Amritsar BSF Sector Deputy Inspector General, J S Oberoi.

Though the villagers praised the BSF for allowing them to visit their respective fields, they however, said that the sudden evacuation order by the state government has created a lot of panic among the people.

“Atleast 85 per cent of our village has been vacated. Punjab police forced us to leave the village citing security
reasons. But when BSF is allowing us to go to the other side of fence to take care of the crops, why can’t we live in our houses? It is beyond our understanding,” said Jeet Singh, a farmer from Pakka Chisti village near Sadqi post.

Confirming that the ban has been lifted, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in a statement issued today said” “Despite the ongoing tension at the Indo-Pak border, the farmers will be allowed to harvest their produce. Crops are as dear to the farmers as their children and they could not bear this loss at any cost. In view of this situation, I had taken up this issue with the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who immediately directed the BSF to allow the farmers of border region to harvest their crops. The Centre has allowed the farmers having agricultural lands across the fence to reap and lift their crop”.”

Claiming that the BSF never imposed any ban on tourists from attending the ‘Retreat’ ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border, Oberoi said,”We never stopped entry of tourists’ for the ‘Retreat’ ceremony. If they want to come, they can do so. Stopping or allowing tourists for the ‘Retreat’ ceremony is the job of the administration. There was no ban from our side ever. Few tourists even attended the ceremony toda”,” he said.

However, despite these positive developments, the administration is still convincing people to leave the border villages and take shelter in relief camps set up by them. Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha himself was present today in these villages to overlook the evacuation process .

Talking to The Indian Express in Theh Kalan village of Tarn Taran district, Valtoha said” “An alert was sounded for these villages up to 10 kilometers, which includes almost 90% villages of my constituency comprising almost 2 lakh people. It is not possible to shift masses at that a large scale. So now we have been focusing only on the villages across the defense drain. There are seven such villages in my constituency and we have been convincing people to leave the”.”

With inputs from Raakhi Jagga