The Bold Voice of J&K

Farmers risk lives to harvest Basmati paddy along IB

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517266-bsf-bunkers-in-jammu-suchetgarhSTATE TIMES NEWS
Bein-Glard (Samba): Harvesting the paddy crop particularly the aromatic Basmati cultivated near the International Border in R S Pura border belt amid relentless shelling by Pakistani Rangers has made farmers sitting ducks of the firing from across the border.
Most areas in and around the R S Pura belt are extremely fertile and best suited for Basmati cultivation. A total of 17,742 hectares having standing paddy crop has been affected due to the shelling and firing by the Pakistani Rangers.
The paddy crop grown in the area is worth Rs 130 crore.
“The Basmati paddy grown in Jammu and Kashmir is now under threat from Pakistan”, an official of the Agriculture department said, adding, farmers are anxious that “if there is no one to harvest, the crop will die in fortnight”.
With the crop ripe, farmers have been risking their lives to harvest the paddy.
54-year-old Sham Lal has rushed to his fields along with few family members to cut the paddy growing close to the International Border in R S Pura border belt of Jammu district. “We are helpless. We cannot afford to lose our crops. Our family is dependent on these crops. We are risking our lives to harvest these standing crops”, Lal said.
Like Lal, several marginal farmers living along the borderline are working overtime to speedily complete harvesting of the crops.
Bein Gallar Sarpanch Ram Paul, whose hamlet was shelled by Pakistani Rangers few days ago, says farmers in border areas are forced to risk their lives to harvest their ripe crops as they depend on them for livelihood.
“In the absence of labourers and machines, they are reluctant to come with their families and undertake harvesting. The border farmers have taken it on themselves to harvest their standing crops and in the process have become sitting ducks for the Pak Rangers”, Paul said.
However, like them the farmers owning big agriculture land are not so lucky as they await paddy cutting machines and labourers, who have fled the farmlands following Pakistani shelling and firing and are reluctant to return to commence farming in the border belt of Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts.
Jabowal Sarpanch Avtar Singh said farmers owning bigger farmlands are helpless in this situation as on one side the Pak troops resorted to shelling and firing and on other side labourers and machine operators have refused to join them in harvesting.
“We await labourers and machines. Security forces say the sound of the tractor instantly invites the sounds of the gun from across the other side of the International Border”, he added.
Singh said that in case of manual harvesting, it will take weeks but if machines for harvesting comes to their fields along with labourers, it will take few days.
“There is a threat to the ready-to-harvest paddy from shelling as it can result in fire which may perish the whole fields”, he said.
Kali Dass, sarpanch of Bhudwal hamlet along the LoC in Pallwanwala sector, feels it is a curse for him to live in the area as they are targeted every time during the harvesting time.
“We are unfortunate people. We were uprooted during three wars, Kargil war, Operation Parakaram and every time when Indo-Pak relations”, he said.
“People particularly youth go to villages in the morning from their camps and carry out harvest work till evening.
Situation is bad for us. We don’t know when we will become victims of Pak shelling and firing during farming”, he said, adding but “We have no choice but to risk our lives if we have save our only resource– paddy”.
Officials said most areas in and around the R S Pura belt are extremely fertile and best suited for basmati cultivation.
As per estimates each hectare of this fertile land produces not less than 18 quintals of Basmati.
A total of 17,742 hectares of area having standing paddy crop has been affected due to shelling and firing by the Pakistani Rangers, official said.
The majority of the affected area falls in Jammu district followed by Samba and Kathua districts.
In Jammu district, the farmers have not been able to harvest crops on 13,322 hectares and in Samba district standing crops on 3770 hectares besides in Kathua district crop on 650 hectares of land has been affected due to shelling.

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