FROM A BJP leader cutting fodder for cattle to a Congress MLA harvesting paddy and driving a tractor, politicians from both sides in Punjab have been keeping themselves busy in villages on the international border ever since the government ordered evacuation.
Punjab goes to assembly polls early next year and the evacuation order has become a rallying point, with the Opposition alleging farmers are being prevented from harvesting their crops near the border and the government insisting there is no restriction.
BJP leader Sukhpal Singh Nannu, a former chief parliamentary secretary, worked a fodder cutting machine at Ferozepur’s Gatti Rajoke village Monday. “With many people having moved to relief camps, I saw cattle standing hungry in empty houses. So I used a cutting machine and provided them fodder,” Nannu told The Indian Express. Nannu also served langar to villagers who have moved out of their homes.
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Gatti Rajoke is about 2 km from the Pakistan border. Parminder Pinki, Congress MLA from Ferozepur City, has already spent two
nights there. On Monday he was in Kaluwala village, which is surrounded by the river Sutlej on three sides, with the Pakistan border on the only land side.
Pinki operated a combine harvester, had the paddy ferried across and then drove the grain to the market. “I helped farmers harvest their paddy and loaded it on the tractor. We ferried the tractor ashore by boat and then I drove the tractor to the grain market,” Pinki told The Indian Express. “I am moving from village to village and asking people not to leave their homes. I am also spending nights there to boost villagers’ confidence.”
In contrast, former state BJP president Kamal Sharma, who hails from Ferozepur, has been trying to persuade people to evacuate from various villages, including Kaluwala. “When I went to Kaluwala, I found villagers were reluctant to move to relief camps. I managed to convince 70 families,” Sharma said.
Punjab PCC president Capt Amarinder Singh will camp in border villages in Khemkaran from October 7. He has urged villagers in
camps to go back to their homes.
Among other Congress leaders, MLA Rana Sodhi will camp in border villages from Tuesday morning and said he will “not allow villagers to evacuate unnecessarily”. As of now, he has been distributing rations in relief camps.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal too visited border villages of Ferozepur and Fazilka Monday. He assured villagers that the government would provide full help in harvesting and procurement.
Other leaders of Badal’s SAD as well as Gurdaspur deputy commissioner Pardeep Sabharwal to make it clear to farmers there has been no ban on harvesting the crop. They reportedly saw some Pakistani farmers working on the other side of the international border. In farms that overlap the zero line, farmers have entry cards that allow them to work on the other side.
SAD leader Sukhjinder Singh Langah, son of former minister Sucha Singh Langah, went to the border near Dera Baba Nanak and crossed the fence with farmers.
Amritsar deputy commissioner Varun Roojam urged farmers to ensure lower moisture content in their paddy rather than sell it immediately below the minimum support price. “Some farmers feared their paddy would get spoilt… but now they are ready to wait,” said Rajwinder Singh, a commission agent in Tarn Taran district.