In border villages, unemployment and bad roads are bigger problems, not warhttps://indianexpress.com/elections/in-border-villages-unemployment-and-bad-roads-are-bigger-problems-not-war-5611036/

In border villages, unemployment and bad roads are bigger problems, not war

The Shakargarh sector of Pakistan Punjab falls opposite a small part of Indian Punjab and Kathua-Hiranagar sectors of Jammu and Kashmir. The area has held strategic significance in the 1965 and 1971 wars and has seen intense fighting between the two armies.

Residents queue up to enroll their names in the electoral list at Hussainiwala village on Sunday. Jasbir Malhi

Even as work is in full swing for the Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan opposite Dera Baba Nanak town, there are reports that Pakistan army has made widespread deployment of its military assets in areas around Shakargarh which is a short distance from Kartarpur.

Highly placed sources in the Army informed that while Pakistan army had been in a state of alert since the Pulwama attack, but after the February 26 airstrike on Balakote camp of Jaish-e-Mohammad by the Indian Air Force fresh deployments have been made along the border by Pakistan.

“These deployments are as per the threat perception of the Pakistan Army and while there is an increased force level observed in their Shakargarh sector, there is also a heavy build up in Akhnoor sector, near Jammu,” said an Army officer who did not want to be identified. Kartarpur is located at a distance of 26 km from Shakargarh. The force deployments have been done keeping the standing wheat crop in mind because this is the time of the year when in both, Indian and Pakistani side of the border the field are full of standing wheat crop and the space for deployment of military assets is limited. On the Indian side, sources say abundant caution is being taken in view of the Pakistani deployment.

The Shakargarh sector of Pakistan Punjab falls opposite a small part of Indian Punjab and Kathua-Hiranagar sectors of Jammu and Kashmir. The area has held strategic significance in the 1965 and 1971 wars and has seen intense fighting between the two armies. Similarly, the Akhnoor sector too has seen heavy fighting in the same two wars with a very heavy density of troop deployment even in peacetime.

One common sight which is evident all along the border districts of Ferozepur, Amritsar and Gurdaspur is that the Punjab Police is present in strong numbers at important points along the border and on the approach roads. Fresh check posts have been established in many places and a tab is being kept on the traffic moving in and out of the area.

Further down the border in Ferozepur, the enclave of a dozen-odd villages near Husseiniwala, life has not been much disturbed due to the ongoing tension between the two countries. These villages are linked to the rest of the country by a solitary bridge as they face Pakistan on the west and have the Sutlej river looping around them cutting them off.

The sleepy routine of the village life was evident in these villages. Speaking to The Indian Express, the residents said that they were not much concerned about the present situation as they did not feel that there would be an all out war. “Had there been a serious threat of war we would have been asked to vacate the villages by the government. We did so in 2016 and had gone towards Ferozepur city after crossing the bridge,” said Sunny Singh, a village youth.

However, residents of the village say that there have been reports that the Pakistani village opposite theirs has been vacated due to the orders of their Army. “We feel bad for the border residents of Jammu who have to brave the Pakistani firing so often. We stand with them in case there is a need to go to war,” said Balwinder Singh.

Grappling with the problems of unemployment, poor road connectivity and lack of internal roads in the villages, the residents of the enclave are more concerned that these issues be highlighted than the prospect of war.