Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ten degrees of separation : Border Town Fazilka Cries For A Rail Link With Amruka In Pakistan

By C Shamsher : TNN

Page 23, Times Chandigarh, 7th February, 2007

Chandigarh: The railway track from Fazilka to Amruka in Pakistan has been there for long. But there is no train to chug along the track to take you across the border. The residents, farmers in particular, say it's a ‘forgotten' silk route (Ludhiana-Fazilka-Karachi) on which this nondescript town prospered in the pre-independence era. So much so that old- timers don't mince words in saying that it was the most prosperous town of Punjab. But that is history. In 2006, any visitor to the town would not mind saying that this town near the Radcliffe Line dividing India and Pakistan is the most backward place in Punjab. To get back its past glory, Border Area Vikas Front, an organisation working for development in the area, has sent memorandums to the Prime Minister, the government of Punjab and the district administration. All that they need is a 10 km rail link between Fazilka and Amruka in Pakistan. Once approved it could be set up in a month's time. This will not only bring prosperity to the farmers of both countries but also give a big boost to business in Fazilka, which will help it regain its past glory. Baljinder Singh, the president of Border Area Vikas Front, said, ‘‘If other borders can be opened up, why not this one. If this is done we will be able to fetch a better price for our produce across the border.'' During the pre-independence days, the rail link passing through Fazilka used to handle goods from places as far off as Madhya Pradesh. Baljinder Singh argued that the same can happen once again. Fazilka exports wool and ‘Punjabi juttis', while rice and cotton are the important crops grown in the area. Residents of the area reason that if road, rail and air link can be established between other places on the two sides of the border, then why not between Fazilka and Amruka

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