GNDU seminar wants govt to do away with 16-km rule | punjab | Hindustan Times
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GNDU seminar wants govt to do away with 16-km rule

A number of policies have been framed by both the central and state governments for the development of areas close to the 553-km long Indo-Pakistan border in Punjab. Special funds have also been earmarked for this purpose under various projects like the Border Area Development Programme (BADP).

punjab Updated: Sep 09, 2012 22:11 IST
Harkirat Singh

A number of policies have been framed by both the central and state governments for the development of areas close to the 553-km long Indo-Pakistan border in Punjab. Special funds have also been earmarked for this purpose under various projects like the Border Area Development Programme (BADP).

However, all these programmes or projects have done little to change the lives of the people of the border areas. If there are schools in these villages, there are no teachers and if there are dispensaries, doctors and nurses are missing. Their connection to the state is virtually non-existent as transport is completely lacking.

Social and political scientists and some grass-root level leaders debated these and other such issues on the concluding day of the 2-day seminar on, ' Socio-Economic Development of Border Areas' at the Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) on Saturday.

The panelists were of the opinion that the 1997 decision of the Central government to define areas within 16-ks from the zero line as the 'Border Zones' had done a lot of harm. Subsequent to this change, areas that were closer to the zero line got less funds for development as compared to areas away from the zero line.


Definition of border area

Originally, the area within a distance of 9 km from the zero-line was delineated as a border area. The definition was changed in 1997, as mentioned earlier. The policy's purported aim was to ensure that more areas could be developed with the funds earmarked just for border area development schemes.

"This decision to extend the area led to development schemes being taken away from the 'genuine' areas that were close to the zero line. Vote bank politics came in, as political leaders ignored areas close to the border, which had lesser number of people. Villages far away from the zero line got funds for development, marking a divide within the border areas," said Prof Jagroop Singh Sekhon, department of political science at GNDU.

Sekhon pointed out that villages which were closer to the zero line were small in size and had fewer inhabitants compared to villages or even towns away from the zero line. Over the years, a number of residents had shifted out from 'hostility' prone zones to safer places, so hence the population fell in a number of villages closer to the border.

Farmers' leader Rattan Singh Randhawa, the founder of Border Area Sangarsh Committtee in 1995, said that in its desire to bring more areas under border area development schemes, the government committed a blunder. After the new definition was applicable, step-motherly treatment had been meted out to areas closer to the zero line.

Giving numerous cases of small towns or large villages benefiting from development grants meant for border areas, he pointed out, "The 16-km rule will mean that a town like Khasa, close to Amritsar, can receive funds for development at the cost of a small village, closer to the zero line. This is quite absurd and the government should revert back to the 9-km rule, if it wants to see the fruits of development reach 'genuine' border residents," Randhawa said.

Dr Satnam Singh Ajnala, another crusader for farmer rights, said that the border belt should be limited to 5-km from the zero line. He felt that concentration of funds in a smaller area will provide for better utilisation of government money. Presently, with a large area, there are more chances of funds being filtered or diverted.

Prof BS Ghuman, dean, faculty of arts, Panjab University, Chandigarh, pointed out that Planning Commission's guidelines stated that while disbursing or using funds for development, villages closest to the zero line be given priority. "The fund disbursement will move down the line," he added, adding that the general public needed to be made aware of this rule.

1) " Single size fits all, this contention of the Planning Commission should be done away with", Prof B. S. Ghuman, Dean, Faculty of Arts, Panjab Univ, Chandigarh.

2) "The very decision to extend the area led to development schemes being taken away from the 'genuine' areas which were close to the zero line", Prof Jagroop Singh Sekhon, Deptt of Political Science, GNDU.

3) The government must revert back to the 9-km rule if it wants fruits of development reach the 'genuine' border residents", Rattan Singh Randhawa, President, Border Area Sangarsh Committee.