IN POLL-BOUND Punjab, soon after receiving instructions from the Union Home Minister to evacuate people from villages falling within 10 km of the border with Pakistan, the Shiromani Akali Dal wasted no time in taking advantage of the situation. Akali ministers and MLAs rushed to the affected areas immediately and began supervising evacuation and rehabilitation programmes across the six border districts.
Nearly 1,000 villages from where evacuation has been ordered fall in nearly 16 assembly constituencies in these six border districts. Out of these 16 constituencies, SAD represents 10 assembly constituencies, BJP represents two, while the Congress represents the remaining six.
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While villagers are upset at having to abandon their homes, politicians are citing “security and safety concerns” for the evacuation. “Male members in many villages near border are still preferring to stay back in the villages. We are counselling people that any nefarious act from across the border could put their lives at risk. But, there are people who do not take this seriously. They think until cannons and tanks are pressed into service, there is no possibility of any war,” said Akali legislator from Khem Karan (in Tarn Taran district) Virsa Singh Valtoha.
SAD leaders have taken centrestage in these constituencies and are trying to make most of the situation to strike a chord with people. Soon after an alert was sounded by the union government, Badal wasted no time in announcing the relief measures for the evacuees. The government machinery swung into action swiftly and special relief camps were set up in schools, gurdwaras, community centres and marriage palaces to accommodate evacuees.
The Octogenarian CM, who was unwell a few days ago and was advised bed rest, held back-to-back emergency meetings with top officials and addressed his council of ministers in the evening. Badal directed the ministers, Akali legislators and party leaders in the border constituencies to camp in their areas and coordinate with administrative officials.
“We are providing langar to the villages for those are still camping there. Also, transport facilities have been put on standby in the villages to ferry people,” said Valtoha, adding that sarpanches had been told to keep a close watch of the situation and do the needful for the convenience of people.
Valtoha said he had visited all the 20 villagers within 10 kilometres from the border falling in his constituency.
In Attari constituency, Akali leader and Animal Husbandry minister Gulzar Singh Ranike held a meeting with people from Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee at Satlani Sahib gurdwara. SGPC is also organising langars for migrants in relief camps.
Ranike’s son Gurinderpal Singh Lali Ranike said minister had toured 13 villages which fell in the area for evacuation. “After a meeting with SGPC members, we are now heading to Dhanoa Kalan village to provide langar in that village,” said Lali.
Akali MLA from Gurdaspur Gurbachan Singh Babbehali said not many people were coming to relief camps. “There are only 13 villages under my constituency and these are not very close to border. We have taken all measures. Schools have been vacated and all arrangements have been made,” said Babbehali.
Akali minister Bikram Singh Majithia toured border villages in Amritsar district. He said, “Clear instructions have been issued to the police administration to protect the houses of evacuees. People need not panic as Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had asked the Union petroleum minister to increase the supply of diesel and petrol in the affected areas. Administration will provide all support to the farmers to cultivate the paddy crop. The Punjab government was committed to ensure purchase of every grain of paddy brought to the grain markets.”