Sixty-six years since Independence successive governments had made tall claims that tremendous development had taken place during their respective regimes, but a visit to the border area in the district paints a contrary picture.
In 1988, a swollen Sutlej changed course and split into two branches near Kasso, a Border Security Force (BSF) BoP (border out post), to become one river again at Chandiwala village. Between the two branches of the river, a 5-mile route created an island, which was cut off from the mainland. There are two secluded villages --Kaluwala and Nihalewala - a few 100 metre from cobra fencing along the India-Pakistan border and depict a picture of neglect.
Inhabitants here only have a pontoon bridge of BSF as a link to the world. The connection is snapped from July to September every year in the rainy season and villagers have no option but to use a dilapidated boat to cross the river by putting their lives in danger. A few years ago, 14 people had died in a border village when their boat capsized in Sutlej.
“In the modern era, when smart phones and latest gadgets are easily available to all, basic amenities like potable drinking water, streets, roads, medical or veterinary care, transportation and sanitary facilities, are a distant dream to us,” Mal Singh (69), nambardar of Kaluwala, lamented.
Recently, financial help arrived at village to set up a hand pump to provide potable water to villagers, but it failed to do the needful and villagers had no option but to drink unclean water, he said.
“For villagers, education has no meaning due to lack of resources. In the absence of education, there is a little hope of improve in living standard. They still employ traditional means of agriculture as no agriculture expert has ever bothered to apprise them of new techniques,” rued Piyara Singh, a former panchayat member.
To reach their school across the river, 6 km from village, kids daily risk their lives by commuting in a boat, he said. “None among them has ever got a government job and a graduate among villagers is hard to find.”
Majority of the villagers live in mud houses with thatched roofs and for them 'government grant for a house' or a community centre is something unheard of, said Swarn Singh of Nihalewala.
“Lack of medical facilities had put lives in danger several times, especially during odd hours. Repeated pleas to authorities concerned have fallen on deaf ears,” said Kailash Rani, another villager.
“A few days ago, wife of my son was in labour during the night, but before she could be taken to civil hospital, 18km away from here, one of the twins died,” said Nishan Singh of the same village.
The much-hyped Ambulance 108 service had never visited them, but medical volunteers do come often to give polio drops to kids, added Nishan. “Politicians, be it of any party, are seen only during elections while their repeated promises of ensuring better living conditions to villagers never get materialised.”
Lack of amenities often become a hurdle to get their sons and daughters married, he pointed out.
Other border villages, which are still crying for amenities include Tendiwala, Chandiwala, Matter, Usaria, Darveshe Kee and Rajjo Ke, etc.
Expressing ignorance about the problems of villagers, deputy commissioner, Manjit Singh Narang assured to visit the villages personally. “Whatever could be done on our part would be done immediately and where ever needed, government would be apprised of the need to provide better amenities to villagers,” the DC said.