Border states were told to evacuate villagers living close to the Pakistan frontier as India on Thursday prepared for any fallout of its “surgical strikes” across the LoC.
The ministry of home affairs asked Punjab and J&K to move to safer locations people living within 10km of the border or the LoC, the de factor border, with Pakistan.
The directive came within hours of the army’s announcement that it had crossed the LoC early Thursday and inflicted heavy damage on seven “launchpads” militants were preparing to use to cross over into the country.
Punjab, which has six districts bordering Pakistan, was on maximum alert. The SAD-BJP government swung into action and started the evacuation process soon after the MHA informed Punjab leadership that it expects some escalation in clashes on border.
“The Centre has informed that there is a possibility of escalation of hostilities on the International Border on account of surgical strikes by the Indian Army which requires measures to safeguard the civilian population along the border in Punjab,” chief minister Badal said after an emergency Cabinet meeting.
People in about 1,000 villages — staying within 10 km from the 553-km International Border (IB) from Fazilka to Pathankot — will be shifted to safer locations in the coming days. The schools in the border areas were shut till further orders and leaves of police and medical personnel cancelled, sources said.
Local authorities used public address systems in gurdwaras, asking residents to move to safer zones.
The major worry of the agrarian state is that paddy crop is ready for harvesting and the crop will start reaching the market from October 1. “The crop and cattle is the concern of farmers. Utmost care of the evacuated villagers will be taken and the government will provide them every necessary facility in the camps,” a top government functionary said.
Earlier Badal, convened a meeting of top brass of bureaucracy and police and put his government and political machinery in an emergency mode. Chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal and police chief Suresh Arora directed the DCs and SSPs to start and oversee the evacuation process in the border districts of Ferozepur, Fazilka, Amritsar, Taran Tarn, Gurdaspur and Pathankot. The border district DCs were sanctioned Rs 1 crore each for making arrangements for evacuation and setting up camps for the displaced border residents.
The uprooted villagers will be housed in schools, community centres, marriage palaces or in tents in the locations which don’t fall within the first strike range. Arrangements were being made in the camps to have facilities like health services, drinking water, toilets, food (langar), fodder for cattle and generators. “The civil defence apparatus has been galvanised. It may take at least two days to vacate all the border villages,” an officer said.
The movement of trucks on the trade routes on the LoC in Uri and Poonch sectors was also brought to a halt. “We have asked border villagers living along IB and LoC to shift to safer area as a precautionary measure,” Jammu deputy commissioner Simrandeep Singh said.
On the edge
987 Punjab villages in 6 border districts to be evacuated
553 -km International Border from Fazilka to Pathankot on maximum alert
Private and govt schools in 10 kms of border shut down
Leave of government employees cancelled
Emergency medical supplies to be stocked up in govt hospitals medical stores and private hospitals to be functional round the clock
Food & civil supplies department to provide food packets for evacuees
(with inputs from HTC Jammu)