Punjab on maximum high alert

Punjab on maximum high alert

Evacuation begins, schools ordered shut

Punjab on maximum high alert
The process of evacuation of people residing in scores of villages close to the Punjab-Pakistan border began on Thursday following surgical strikes by the Army across the LoC in the early hours.

The government ordered evacuation of people living in villages within a 10-km radius from the international border as a preventive measure. Punjab shares a 543-km stretch of the international border with Pakistan. Six Punjab districts share boundaries with Pakistan. Although people celebrated the valour of the Army, tension gripped the six border districts with apprehensions of another war with Pakistan.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal ordered the government and political machinery to be on 'emergency mode' after Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to him over telephone. Rajnath shared the gravity of the escalating situation with Badal. The Border Security Force (BSF) on Thursday cancelled the retreat ceremony at the Wagha-Attari border in Punjab. Tourists and civilians have been advised to keep off the Attari border, 30 km from Amritsar. Hundreds of tourists visiting the border zone for the ceremony were stopped one kilometre short of the venue and asked to return.

Punjab border districts already have a high presence of  Army and Air Force establishments. There are also some reports of Army being moved in these forward areas.

Hospitals in border towns have been put on alert. The emergency wards in civil hospital in border town Pathankot have been cleared to cater to additional load of casualties, if any. The Air Force base in Pathankot was targeted by Pakistani militants from across the border on January 1 this year. Schools in border areas have been directed to close down till further orders. Villagers in border areas were issued advisories through village Sarpanchs to pack up as quickly as possible to expedite the process of evacuation.

Deputy Commissioners have been asked to arrange alternative accommodation for the displaced villagers. Sources said, marriage halls and such other places of stay could be used as a stopgap arrangement. Badal held an emergency meeting with senior officials at his official residence. Deputy Commissioners (DCs) and Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs) have been asked to oversee the evacuation in the border districts of Ferozepur, Fazilka, Amritsar, Taran Tarn, Gurdaspur and Pathankot.