Updated: April 21, 2020 6:16:05 pm
An Indian territory in Punjab lying across river Ravi along the Pakistan border, which had only seasonal connectivity with the rest of the country since 1947, finally got a permanent link in the form of a bridge on Monday, when tractor trolleys of farmers carrying wheat harvest crossed it for the first time.
The 484-metre road bridge, connecting Kassowal enclave — which falls between Ravi and the International Border with Pakistan near Dera Baba Nanak — has been thrown open for farmers ahead of schedule by Border Roads Organisation (BRO), so they can transport their paddy harvest to mandis.
The Kassowal enclave had so far been connected to the rest of India by a pontoon bridge, which would be dismantled during monsoons. This meant that the thousands of acres of land across the river was left inaccessible for farmers and residents of the area.
Kassowal enclave has seen intense fighting in the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan, during which it was occupied by the Pakistan Army. The enclave was formed because it has the Ravi behind it and the International Border ahead of it.
There are similar enclaves of Pakistani territory too, which lie ahead of Ravi and face Indian territory. These Pakistani enclaves — Dera Baba Nanak enclave and Jassar enclave — were occupied by the Indian Army in the 1965 and 1971 wars.
The BRO had been constructing the bridge linking the Kassowal enclave with the rest of Gurdaspur district for the past four years. However, work came to a halt on March 23 due to the Covid-19 lockdown. The BRO then took special permission from the Punjab government and Gurdaspur district administration to ensure the bridge was ready before monsoons
“The wheat harvest produce was moved from Kassowal enclave yesterday. Work was done during the lockdown to ensure that locals do not suffer in harvest season as also to ensure safety of under-construction bridge during monsoons,” a senior BRO official said.
BRO officials say the harvesting season necessitated the opening of Kassowal access on priority.
On April 3, Commander of 49 Border Roads Task Force (BRTF), LG Wankhede, wrote to the District Commissioner Gurdasopur, seeking permission to resume construction works on Kassowal bridge.
On April 10, Director General Border Roads (DGBR) Lt Gen Harpal Singh discussed the matter with the Punjab government, and on April 11, the SDM Dera Baba Nanak gave his nod. Permission was also acquired to procure construction material supply from Pathankot quarry and Amritsar district for the bridge works.
The result of all the efforts was that the under-construction bridge was in a position to be thrown open for tractors and trailers of Kassowal enclave farmers to reach the mandis with their produce.
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