Punjab authorities ordered the evacuation of villages near the Pakistan border on Thursday as chief minister Parkash Singh Badal put the state government and political machinery on emergency mode following surgical strikes against “terror launchpads” across the Line of Control.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh talked to Badal over phone and requested him to start the evacuation of people in villages within 10 km of the border in view of the escalating tensions.
While monitoring the situation during an emergency meeting at his official residence, Badal directed chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal and DGP Suresh Arora to ask deputy commissioners and senior superintendents of police to oversee the evacuation in Ferozepur, Fazilka, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur and Pathankot.
The chief minister directed the DCs to identify a suitable location for setting up camps. The chief minister also spoke to cabinet ministers and MLAs to camp in the border districts in which their assembly constituencies fall and liaise with the district administration to ensure the smooth movement of residents of villages near the border.
Badal directed the chief secretary to immediately release Rs 1 crore each to all DCs of the six border districts to meet any exigency.
The chief minister called an emergency cabinet meeting at 6pm to review the situation.
In Kashmir, the army briefly stopped cross-LoC trade in Uri, citing ceasefire violations by Pakistan in Poonch and Nowgam.
District officials said village sarpanches and local administration were told to start the evacuation process as soon as possible. Border Security Force (BSF) put the IB on further alert after the surgical strikes.
As tensions mounted between the two countries, Border Security Force officials confirmed the beating retreat ceremony, held at the Wagah border in Punjab, was called off.
BSF officials said while the Indian flag will be lowered in the evening, none of the pomp and show will take place. All tourists turning up for the ceremony were turned back.
In the three border districts of Jammu, Samba and Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, officials said no evacuation of villagers had started.
“As of now, we have not evacuated villagers from the forward villages but we are keeping a constant watch on the situation,” said Jammu deputy commissioner Simrandeep Singh.
Kathua district SSP, Neeva Jain said that the situation in the border district was normal and as of now no formal orders has come to her to evacuate the villagers from forward areas.
(With HTC inputs from Chandigarh)