Two days after Punjab ordered the evacuation of villages lying close to the border with Pakistan, barely 30,000 people complied. The lives of people here are connected so strong to their land that they till and the cattle they tend to that some have returned.
Over 450 villages are close to the border in Ferozepur and Fazilka districts and have more than 5 lakh residents. Most of those who have evacuated belong to villages that fall three km from the border.
Among those who stayed back said that the relief camps do not have much facilities for their cattle and others did not want to stay away from their homes and field. Women in one such border village Gatti Rajoke in Ferozepur district returned on Saturday citing their cattle. Similar scenes were witnessed in other village of Tendiwala, the last village along the line of control in Hussainiwala sector.
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A total of 62 relief camps have been set up in the Ferozepur and Fazilka districts in which not more than 2,000 persons have taken refuge. Most other evacuees preferred their relatives’ homes.
“Complete evacuation is not possible. How can we leave our cattle?” said Massa Singh, Nambardar of Gatti Rajoke village. All confectionary, grocery, vegetable and fruit, barber shops remained open in the village. “As a precaution, a few women leave their homes in the night for the relief camps after they are done with their daily routine. The daily expenses of these households have increased because of the constant shuttling between home and relief camps.”
Vishambar Das of Peer Mohammad village in Fazilka managed to evacuate his family members and cattle with him to a relative’s place in Mamdot area of Ferozepur. “This was the only option left. At least this way, my family will stay united,” he said.
According to the district administration of Ferozepur, so far 15,000 villagers have moved out of the 10-km range.
DPS Kharbanda, Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepur said, “We are making arrangements for cattle sheds near the relief camps where we shall also arrange green fodder for the cattle”.
Gur Har Sahai assembly constituency’s Congress legislator Rana Sodhi who visited border areas today in his constituency, said, “The meals served in relief camps are pathetic. In absence of any arrangements for the cattle, villagers will not come to relief camps. They are ordered to move out of their homes in the middle of the night.”
A Venuprasad, Principal Secretary (power), nodal officer of evacuation arrangements in Fazilka district said, “It is correct that cattle sheds need to be set up near relief camps. We are making arrangements to provide green fodder for animals.”