Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Life on the edge

Sandeep Sinha recalls his visit to the international border at Bhaini Dilawar village in the Fazilka sector
The Tribune, Saturday Extra, 21st June, 2008
Living in a border state and the charm of discovering what it is like to be living on the edge had been gnawing at me. Finally, I found myself staring across the fencing with its floodlights and the dreaded Cobra wire with a pair of binoculars in my hand.

Residents of Bhaini Dilawar village have to cross the Pattan checkpost, often
several times a day, for routine jobs

We were at Ground Zero. BSF Assistant Commandant S.B. Mukherjee was to be our friend, philosopher and guide in that tough terrain. Mukherjee has been decorated twice with the President’s Medal for Gallantry in 1997 and 1999 for having killed seven terrorists in two counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir.
We reached the BSF post at Mohar Sona, Bhaini Dilawar, after a short ride from Fazilka. Mohar Sona is famous for the battle of Asafwala during the 1971 war where the 4 Jat Regiment lost 82 of its troops in combat. Here, the Sutlej flows in a narrow stretch and is barely 15 feet in depth, forming a creek area called Pattan by the locals.

Congress grass and sarkandas grow in abundance on the
Pakistani side. In India, villagers are not allowed to grow tall crops to check

The Fazilka sector has a peculiar geographical position. It was India’s sentimental attachment to the memorial of Shaheed Bhagat Singh at Hussainiwala and the resultant exchange of territory by which Pakistan agreed to return Hussainiwala to India in return for concessions in this sector.
In military parlance, it is called ‘chicken’s neck’. Most border villages in this area are surrounded by Pakistan on three sides with only a jutting strip connecting them to the mainland. In case of a conflict the villages can be easily cut off by the enemy leaving the villagers to fend for themselves. Here the Sutlej River enters India from Pakistan and then again flows into Pakistan, making it a unique local geographical feature.
The three Pakistani posts surrounding the area are at Wali Mohammed, Beriyanwali and Qadir Jaan.
Locals say that the Fazilka sector can only be defended in case of an attack, as an offensive is not possible from here. Due to the impact of this territorial settlement between India and Pakistan, Fazilka, once among the three biggest sub-divisions of Punjab, has not been able to grow. Infrastructure, a pre-requisite for development of any area, is non-existent. As the area is constantly under the shadow of the gun, growth has lagged behind.
Having entered our names in the BSF register, we made our way to the village but not before the troops treated us to cups of piping hot chai and pakoras. The hands that wielded the guns could work the stove with equal felicity. It was followed by a recce in the area with sten gun-toting jawans shadowing us. We also had motorboat ride in the Sutlej. While I marvelled at the experience, I could feel the hair rising at the back of my neck at the thought that we could be under the enemy gaze.

The pontoon bridge over the Sutlej is a bone of contention between
the villagers and the BSF. When the water level rises, it is dismantled.
Villagers want an all-weather bridge, a demand the Army rejects for security
reasons — Photos by Praful Nagpal

Bhaini Dilawar has roughly 150 houses and its population is approximately 1200. It has a primary school with 20 students and two teachers. To reach the village from the BSF post, one has to cross a pontoon bridge negotiating an uneven slope. We saw a tractor loaded with bricks unable to negotiate the climb. It finally reversed and revved up to climb over the steep incline.
The bridge itself is a bone of contention between the villagers and the BSF. During the monsoon, it is dismantled after the water level rises in the Sutlej. Villagers have to use boats to ferry both men and crop. So, they want a proper all-weather bridge, a demand the Army finds it difficult to accede to because of security reasons, say sources. According to BSF DIG V.K. Sharma, there is no point in constructing something that can be used by the enemy. If there is a pucca bridge, then the enemy will only need to attack the post to facilitate intrusion.
The road in the village, too, is in a dilapidated condition; probably because no VIP visits here and the only vehicles to ply on it are tractors, motorcycles or BSF Gypsies. Wazir Singh, a villager, points out, while handing over a glass of Sutlej water to drink, that the responsibility of maintaining the village road lies with the Block and Panchayat Development Officer (BDPO). But the efforts are obviously lacking!
The villagers, like in other border areas, are forbidden to grow tall crops like sugarcane ostensibly because the enemy can use these to camouflage its movements. During the tenure of the Vajpayee government, the villagers were paid compensation at the rate of Rs 2,500 per acre for not growing tall crops, says Jeet Singh, another villager. This compensation has now been stopped. The villagers want it restored. Their demand ranges from anywhere between Rs 3,500 and Rs 10,000 per acre. BSF sources, however, say that the villagers are not interested in growing crops but only in getting the compensation.
In contrast is the view on the Pakistani side where Congress grass and sarkandas (all tall vegetative growths) are visible. Locals also say that at times the attack by wild boars from the Pakistani side results in crop destruction. Because of which many of the villagers have given up farming. However, BSF officials clarify that the problem was ‘acute’ two years ago but has been checked in recent times with Pakistan clearing the jungles on its side and giving land to retired personnel to settle.
The villagers are also peeved over the strict monitoring of entry of people into the village. They lament that they have to live like prisoners in their own village. At night if someone falls ill they have to plead to the BSF personnel to get the gate opened so as to reach hospital.
But Nanak Singh, another villager, adds that the paramilitary personnel cooperate and even provide their vehicles to take the patient to hospital, in case of emergency.
The villagers also resent the fact that they have to make an entry in the BSF register at the gate every time they need to go out or come back.
The villagers say the security check, too, causes inconvenience and is embarrassing, especially for women. They want women constables posted to tide over the problem. Due to these stringent security checks relatives avoid visiting at late hours, claim villagers. But as BSF officials point out the choice is between generosity and lax security. One can’t take chances in an area where farmers plough land till the last inch of the border, otherwise, one may never know who went and who came back, the officials add.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

ट्रिंग-ट्रिंग, एक रिक्शा भेज दो

Dainik Jagran, 18th June, 2008 (Front Page), Ludhiana, Patiala, Bathinda Edition
अमृत सचदेवा
फाजिल्का : मोबाइल सेवाओं, बैंकों, रेलवे इत्यादि के कॉल सेंटरों के बाद अब यदि कोई आपसे कहे कि रिक्शा बुलाने के लिए कॉल सेंटर शुरू किया जा रहा है, तो बड़ा आश्चर्य होगा। शायद आप उसकी बात को पहले-पहल मानेंगे भी नहीं, लेकिन यह सच है। ग्लोबल वार्मिग कम करने के क्षेत्र में पहले ही नाम कमा चुका फिरोजपुर जिले का फाजिल्का शहर अब रिक्शा बुलाने के लिए कॉल सेंटर खोलने वाला देश का पहला शहर बनने जा रहा है। इस कॉल सेंटर से दुपहिया व चौपहिया वाहनों में ईधन की खपत से फैलने वाली ग्लोबल वार्मिग को कम करने में मदद मिलेगी। रिक्शा कॉल सेंटर की शुरुआत दो दिन बाद 20 जून से की जा रही है। ग्लोबल वार्मिग इस समय पूरे विश्व के लिए एक बड़ी समस्या बनी हुई है। दुनिया के हर देश द्वारा लाख प्रयासों के बावजूद ग्लोबल वार्मिग कम करने के प्रयास सफल नहीं हो पा रहे हैं। पर फाजिल्का की ग्रेजुएट वेलफेयर एसोसिएशन एक ऐसी संस्था है, जो सौ देशों की सदस्यता वाले चेक गणराज्य के कार फ्री नेटवर्क के साथ जुड़कर ग्लोबल वार्मिग कम करने में नित नया प्रयास कर रही है। पहले एसोसिएशन के सदस्यों के प्रयासों से शहर के उच्च व मध्यवर्गीय लोगों ने कार पर चलना छोड़कर व साइकिल अपनाकर ग्लोबल वार्मिग कम करने की दिशा में प्रभावी कदम उठाया था। नतीजतन व‌र्ल्ड कार फ्री नेटवर्क ने फाजिल्का को दुनिया का सबसे कम कारों के प्रयोग वाला शहर घोषित कर ग्लोबल वार्मिग कम करने में सहयोगी बताया था। अब एसोसिएशन के संरक्षक आईआईटी, रूढ़की के प्रो. भूपिंदर सिंह व युवा इंजीनियर नवदीप असीजा के प्रयासों से फाजिल्का में रिक्शा बुलाने के लिए पांच कॉल सेंटर शुरू किए जा रहे हैं। असीजा ने बताया कि फाजिल्का में करीब 500 लोग रिक्शा चलाते हैं, लेकिन हर घर में दुपहिया व चौपहिया वाहन की लालसा के चलते रिक्शा चालकों का काम बहुत कम हो गया है। शहर में किसी काम से निकलने वाले व्यक्ति को ज्यादा से ज्यादा तीन किलोमीटर दूर जाना होता है। अब तक रिक्शा आसानी से और वाजिब किराए पर उपलब्ध न होने के चलते लोग दुपहिया वाहन या कार से कहीं आने-जाने में रोजाना 900 लीटर पेट्रोल खपा देते हैं। इस प्रकार पेट्रोल जलने से प्रतिदिन 14 हजार किलो शुद्ध हवा खराब होती है, जो ग्लोबल वार्मिग का कारण बनती है। असीजा के अनुसार, रिक्शा कॉल सर्विस 20 जून शाम छह बजे लांच होगी। फाजिल्का में रिक्शा सर्विस को इस तरह से तैयार किया गया है, जैसे दिल्ली में दो-दो मिनट बाद मेट्रो ट्रेन की सर्विस मिलती है। इसी तह फाजिल्का में एक कॉल करने पर दो मिनट के भीतर रिक्शा घर के बाहर तैयार खड़ा मिलेगा। यह सुविधा लागू करने के लिए फाजिल्का को पांच जोन उत्तरी, पूर्वी, दक्षिणी, पश्चिमी व मध्य में बांटा गया है। हर जोन पर एक फोन उपलब्ध करवाया गया है, जिसे अटेंड करने के बाद ऑपरेटर ज्यादा से ज्यादा आधा किलोमीटर दूर से रिक्शा बुलाने वाले के पास दो मिनट के भीतर रिक्शा भेज देगा। मोटे तौर पर हर 1500 घरों के लिए एक रिक्शा सेंटर उपलब्ध होगा। यह सुविधा मिलने से महिलाओं, खासकर बुजुर्गो को कहीं काम पर आने-जाने में एक लोकल कॉल पर सामान्य किराये पर रिक्शा उपलब्ध हो जाएगा। इस योजना में फाजिल्का रिक्शा यूनियन को साथ लिया गया है।

फाजिल्का को मिलेगा पूरे साल नहरी पानी
Jun 23, 09:42 pm
फाजिल्का : जमीनी पानी में फ्लोराइड की मात्रा अधिक होने व नहरी पानी छह माह मिलने के चलते दशकों से पेयजल किल्लत झेलते आ रहे फाजिल्कावासियों को अब एक साल के भीतर नहरी पानी परियोजना से पूरा साल नहरी पानी उपलब्ध होगा। भाजपा जिलाध्यक्ष महिंदर प्रताप धींगड़ा व मंडल अध्यक्ष सतीश सेतिया ने बताया कि अकाली-भाजपा गठबंधन ने अपने पूर्व कार्यकाल में नहरी पानी परियोजना तैयार करवाई थी। उसके तहत बार्डर रोड वाटर व‌र्क्स बनकर तैयार है, जिसे पूर्व की कांग्रेस सरकार ने नहीं संभाला और लोग पांच साल शुद्ध नहरी पानी को तरसते रहे। अब जब अकाली-भाजपा सरकार सत्ता में आ गई है। इसलिए नहरी पानी परियोजना को छह मासी नहर से काटकर नई बनाई गई न्यू वजीदपुरा माइनर से पूरा साल पानी दिया जाएगा। यह प्रोजेक्ट एक साल के भीतर पूरा हो जाएगा।

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fazilka ECOCAB Project Launched

Dear All,
It gives me immense pleasure to announce that, we have successfully launched the “Dial-a-Rickshaw” facility in Fazilka. We have named it as “ECOCABS”. At present cycle rickshaws are fulfilling the demand of public transport system of our small city Fazilka.

In the last couple of years, we observed the change of modal share in the total trip distribution by personalized motorized mode of transportation instead of our conventional rickshaw. Primarily because of two reasons; inaccessibility of cycle rickshaws and quality of rickshaws. Fazilka, where average trip length is shorter than 3km, it is very easy to promote cycle based public transport system. Narrow street design of Fazilka city encourages the use of cycle based public transport system. As a part of value addition to existing cycle rickshaw project; serving city’s transportation need from last 60 years, we decided to launch “ECOCABS”. Now cycle rickshaws in Fazilka are available on phone call away. It’s our own metro, but on rubber tyres. We have divided the city into five zones, mainly North, South, East, West and Central and started Rickshaw Call centre in each Zone. This zoning was based upon the number of household served. All these locations are near to residential areas of Fazilka city. Now with a phone call, rickshaw is available at your doorstep within five minutes. You all are cordially invited to experience our Rapid Rickshaw Transit system. Residents of Fazilka are very excited about this service. Our Ecocab project is just not only supporting the livelihood of 500 families who are depended on cycle rickshaw but with this pedal power we are saving an estimated 900 liter of fuel and 14000kg fresh air on daily basis. It’s first of its kind citizen effort to control the oil consumption and minimize the effect of global warming on this planet.

World carefree network is associated with for this noble cause. Thanks to Media without them it was not possible to make this project as big success. I am sending you the URL of all leading Print and Electronic Media channels, who covered our ECOCAB launch. Come and enjoy the difference.

Asian Age

Video of Ecocab on CNN

The Statesman


Times of India

The Tribune

All India Radio and Doordarshan

The India Post
Our Fazilka Website

Monday, June 2, 2008

Fazilka ke Prehri : A Short movie on Asafwala War Memorial Fazilka

A Tribute to 1971 India Pakistan War Heroes- Sulemanki Sector Fazilka

a short movie title " Fazilka Ke Prehri", a tribute by Fazilka people to its defenders (67th Infantry), who fought bravely in 1971 India Pakistan War in Sulemanki sector (Fazilka). Fazilka people built Asafwala War Memorial in the memory of all brave soldiers of 67th Infantry Brigade, who laid down their life to save Fazilka against enemy attack. Please do visit this living temple of Fazilka whenever you visit Fazilka next time.
यह यादगार उन शहीदों के याद में बनाई गई है जिन्होंने 1971 के भारत पाकिस्तान युद्ध में गुर्मिखेरा, सुलेमानकी क्षेत्र (फाजिल्का) में देश के लिए लड़ते हुए वीरगति की प्राप्ति की You tube link of "Fazilka ke Prehri Movie" :