Chowkidar guards the well 24×7; water theft carries penalty — no water for 5 days

In Badanaal village, water is rationed from its only well - Latur of JKAt Badanaal village in Ghatti panchayat, 25 km from Kathua district headquarters, a chowkidar-cum-panchayat member has been guarding one of two wells, the only source of water in the village, round the clock since the onset of summer to keep away “water thieves”. The second well of the village is dried up.
Every morning, chowkidar Sardar Singh comes up with a measuring utensil to provide only 15 litres water per family from the well. A register lies with him wherein an “entry” is made after the specified quantity of water is provided to a family. The village has 60 families comprising more than 300 members. All nomadic families of Gujjars and Bakerwals have already left the village, which is facing a crisis like Maharashtra’s Latur.
Besides rationing of the water, the villagers have been made to take an oath that they will not take any water other than what is provided to them in the morning. And, there is a punishment for the “water thieves” as well. If anybody is caught stealing water from the well, his or her family is not provided water from the well for the next five days. In such a scenario, the family is left with no option but to fetch water from the Ujh river almost 6 km from the village. Some villagers visit the Ujh river with their horses and mules to fetch water on alternate days to meet their water requirements. The village has no road connectivity so its residents cannot be helped out with water tankers.
“We have administered an oath to all families of the village that they will not steal water from the well, and if somebody is caught doing so, the family is not provided water from the well for the next five days. We are left with no option but this locally devised formula to meet the water requirements,” said JP Singh, sarpanch, Ghatti panchayat.
The sarpanch said they had been raising the water scarcity issue for the past many years but successive governments and local representatives had not paid any heed to the sufferings of the villagers. “We were promised that the village would be provided water supply from the Ghatti tube well, and the authorities had started work on laying the pipes but that has now been stalled because of shortage of funds. Our people are still forced to fetch water on horses and mules from the Ujh river. Our children and women are not able to take bath in this hot and humid weather. We have been left at the mercy of God,” he said.
“To do justice to all families living in the village, we decided to devise a mechanism so that all families could get some quantity of water to meet their kitchen requirements. Everyone in the village is hoping that the monsoon will provide some relief here,” Sardar Singh said.
Finding it tough to bear the water shortage, a villager said: “Water scarcity has severely affected the mid-day meal scheme in the middle school of the village. We have two choices — either to leave our homes till the monsoon arrives or continue to face the hardships.”
Upinder Singh, Assistant Executive Engineer, Public Health Engineering Department, said the paucity of funds had affected the water supply scheme and the laying of water pipes from the Ghatti tube well to Badanaal village. “We have apprised the higher-ups of the situation and are hopeful of getting funds for completion of the scheme soon,” he said.

Villagers manhandle DSP, set afire SHO’s vehicle in Kathua

Basohli tense after boy’s throat-slit body foundBasohli and Mahanpur towns of Kathua district today observed a shutdown following tension triggered by the recovery of the throat-slit body of a Class VIII Dalit boy in the area on Monday night.
Police sources said the student had been identified as Karan Kumar, 13, a resident of Ward Number 13 in Basohli. He had gone missing from his residence on Monday evening and his throat-slit body was found in an under-construction bathroom of a government school near his home.
The boy’s family, relatives and residents of Basohli town and the Beopar Mandal held a protest this morning and blocked the Bani-Basohli, Basohli-Punjab and the Basohli-Kathua highways throughout the day. They raised slogans against the police and kept the body outside the Basohli police station, demanding stringent action against the culprits.
Sources said as soon as the cavalcade of the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) passed through the site of the protest, angry protesters threw stones on the police officer’s vehicle. The protesters allegedly manhandled policemen, including the DSP.
The sources said protesters barged into the office of the Station House Officer (SHO), Basohli police station, and ransacked it. They set a room of the police station and the SHO’s official vehicle on fire.
Meanwhile, the protesters also allegedly dragged the suspects, detained by the police for questioning, out of the police lock-up and thrashed them. The suspects saved themselves by taking refuge in a nearby CRPF camp.
Later, ASP, Kathua, Khalil Ahmed Poswal and DSP Kuljeet Singh reached Basohli town and pacified the protesters. The protesters were promised that ex gratia would be given to the boy’s family and a committee would be constituted to probe the case.
Normalcy was restored in the town late in the evening after the protesters lifted the blockade.
Meanwhile, the Police Department has constituted a probe panel headed by a DSP to unravel the murder mystery.

Criticises Jitendra for hoodwinking people by making hollow promises

Irked BSF man creates ruckus at Union Minister’s functionAn enraged youth today lambasted Minister for State (MoS) in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh for allegedly hoodwinking people by making hollow promises to them.
The Union Minister had to face the wrath of the youth this afternoon when he was attending a religious congregation at the Jasrota area in Kathua district.
It all started when Jitendra Singh, the Lok Sabha member from the Kathua-Udhampur parliamentary constituency, was being felicitated by community members after completing his address.
Suddenly, a local youth, who is a constable in the BSF and posted outside J&K, jumped on to the dais and started yelling at the minister for not keeping the promises made at the time of the elections.
The youth, whose identity could not be ascertained, said the minister’s speech and the promises made by BJP leaders were nothing but a bundle of lies.
As soon as the youth made the remarks, security personnel got hold of him and took him down from the dais.
However, the youth’s words were enough to make the minister uncomfortable and he wasted no time in giving clarifications.
Later, while talking to mediapersons, the youth said his mother has been ill for quite some time. He said he had made several rounds to the office of the MoS in New Delhi but to no avail as the minister had never bothered to speak to him.
Meanwhile, the minister denied the allegations levelled by the youth.

First cable-stayed bridge of North opens todayDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar will inaugurate Northern India’s first cable-stayed bridge on the Ravi river in the Basohli area of Kathua district on Thursday.
The 592-metre-long bridge is important for quick induction of armed forces from Punjab to J&K. The load of the bridge will be borne by 96 cables supported by two towers
Built at a cost of Rs 14,543.52 lakh, the bridge will provide additional route to Srinagar from Pathankot. It will shorten Pathankot-Basohli distance by over 35 km

Displaced border residents recount tales of misery as they battle government apathy

‘We’re living in hell, no one pays heed to our miseries’The administration’s apathy is adding to the woes of hundreds of border villagers, displaced again by border firing in Kathua and Samba districts.

Around 300 villagers have taken shelter at the Santoshi Mata Temple here, being frequented by politicians nowadays, but the displaced residents have received no major help from the authorities so far.

The administration has so far sent only one bag of rice, weighing 50 kg, and two bags of flour, weighing 50 kg each, for the 300 villagers.

The temple management has thrown open rooms for 300 women, children and elderly. The families are being provided food by sarpanch of the Bobbiyan panchayat Bharat Bhushan Sharma.

Sharma is also the president of the Border Welfare Committee — an amalgam of 33 border villages on the Zero Line from Regal to Paharpur in Kathua district.

“We are living in hell. No one pays heed to our miseries. We have been hearing for the past two decades that five marla plots will be given to us in safer zones, but nothing has happened. Now, the government has come up with the idea of community bunkers. They only rub salt into our wounds. We are not getting anything from the administration. It is our sarpanch who is arranging food for us,” said Pritam Singh (70), a resident of Bobbiyan village.

“Bedding is being brought by the villagers while I have made arrangements for their food. This morning, the administration sent a bag of rice and around 6.30 pm, two bags of flour were sent,” said Sharma.

“Children need milk and biscuits. No dispensary has been set up to attend to the ailing and the injured. The winter has already set in and people need blankets in the night but we are not getting any of these basic requirements,” he added.

Munish Singh, a youth from Bobbiyan, said politicians and bureaucrats should come and spend a night either in the villages being shelled by Pakistan or in the camps for displaced villagers. “I bet they will never take the risk. They can only do the cosmetic exercise of expressing solidarity and issuing orders of making arrangements,” said Munish.

Sleuths of the Jammu and Kashmir Excise Department on Friday foiled a bid to smuggle rare and highly-valuable banned forest products after a huge quantity of them were seized at the Lakhanpur toll post in Kathua district.

A vehicle from Srinagar on its way to Batala belt in Punjab was stopped at the Lakhanpur toll post for assessment of the goods, Deputy Excise Commissioner Rajesh Sharma said.

During checking of the vehicle, 31 bags of forest produce, comprising 22 bags of Koad-Kutki (Piccrorhiza Kurroa) (625 kgs), 9 bags of Muskbala (Valeriana sp) (343 kgs) and one packet of Jangli Lahsun (2 kg) were found.

The smugglers had concealed the precious forest products beneath bags of carbon, he said.

The team was duly assisted by a team of forest department headed by Range Officer Munish Gupta, who identified the items as rare and threatened species.