Whenever someone goes missing, commits suicide or is allegedly murdered and the body is not found, families desperately look for them in the Rajasthan and Sirhind feeder canals.
But, with a huge amount of water in the Rajasthan feeder (18,500 cusecs) and the Sirhind feeder (about 5,200 cusecs), the search for bodies becomes like looking for a needle in the haystack.
Moreover, families are left to fend for themselves in such operations, supported only by friends or relatives, without any help from the government, which has also not erected any system to prevent the bodies from flowing downwards.
Both the canals originate from Hari Ke headworks in Ferozepur from the confluence of the Satluj and the Beas and pass through Faridkot and Ferozepur districts with over 150-km stretch in Punjab. Faridkot is the only town on the canals.
Even with incidents of missing people becoming a routine, the state government has not come up with any special system at the endpoint of the Rajasthan canal in Punjab near Lohgarh village, where the Rajasthan canal diverts and the Sirhind feeder has its endpoint.
The Lohgarh head is the last point for many such families, which carry the impression that bodies floating in the canal can be fished out from here. If bodies are not traced, they can float down into Haryana and then to Rajasthan.
After Lohgarh head, Masitan, far down into Rajasthan, is the last resort for the people to find the bodies in the Rajasthan canal. But, such search operations can last for hours or even days. There is no proper path also for two-wheelers or type of transport.
This correspondent drove down to a point near Surewala village in Suratgarh district of Rajasthan, about 150 km from here during a search operation. This is the last point to look for the dead, but about over a km of the canal stretch is badly choked by weeds and haystack accumulated at the footbridge, which usually comes from the rivers.
At this point, where weeds were being removed by a crane in Rajasthan, many bodies are believed stuck.
The body of a 45-year-old woman from Kotkapura, who went missing from home on Monday last, was found stuck in weeds here after five days.
"Many bodies might be stuck and families come to look for them here. But, it is very difficult as a large stretch of the canal has been choked by a thick growth of weeds and bodies can get stuck in them. Finding a body, sometimes, is next to impossible. We have found skeletons of two people during the removal of weeds by a crane," said a worker at the site.
Now, the family of one Lovepreet Singh, 19, a youth from Faridkot, who went missing on Tuesday, and his scooter, purse and mobile were found abandoned on the side of the Rajastahn canal, have been searching for his body as they suspect that he may have been murdered and the body thrown into the canal.
"Missing people incidents are on the rise and the government must help such families to look for the bodies as the poor families cannot carry out serach operations on their own," said Swarn Singh, a member of the joint action committee formed to seek justice for the missing from Faridkot.
"The Punjab government should set up a control room at Lohgarh headworks, the endpoint of the state border, and details of missing persons from the police station may be sent there immediately. No body should be allowed to float beyond this point. Unidentified bodies, which remains unclaimed, should be cremated by the government. The government should also involve some social organisations in this work," said Jasdeep Singh, a teacher from Kotkapura.