Civilians Along LoC Face Brunt of Shelling as Govt Fails to Construct Bunkers Due to 'Untenable Budget'
Since Tuesdayâ€™s pre-dawn air strike, the people dwelling along the borders are living in absolute fear due to lack of bunkers. Bunkers are underground concrete structures used by civilians as a shield during a fire exchange.
Workers construct a concrete bunker in a residential area near the border with Pakistan in Samba sector near Jammu. (Image: Reuters)
Srinagar: A day after India carried out â€œnon-military pre-emptiveâ€ air strike against the Jaish in Balakot, heavy mortar shelling was reported along the LoC in Poonch and Rajouri districts of Jammu and Kashmir and an exchange of fire between Indian security forces and Pakistani Rangers broke out in Samba area along the International Border, leaving four civilians and a Ranger dead. Five Indian army soldiers have also been injured.
Since Tuesdayâ€™s pre-dawn air strike, the LoC and the IB remained tense and the people dwelling along the borders are living in absolute fear due to lack of bunkers. Bunkers are underground concrete structures used by civilians as a shield during a fire exchange.
Schools located in the 5-kilometre range from the LoC have been shut in Rajouri and Poonch districts
Last year, the government had sanctioned Rs 415.73 crore to construct over 14,000 community and individual bunkers for people living along the LOC and the IB. However, most of them are still under construction and cannot be used yet.
The Centre had planned to construct 7,298 bunkers for the twin districts of Poonch and Rajouri and 7,162 underground bunkers were sanctioned for in Jammu, Kathua and Samba districts which fall along the IB.
Therefore, residents continue to face major challenges in times of aggression.
An individual bunker with an area of 160 square feet can accommodate eight people while an 800 square feet community bunker can accommodate 40 people.
The Modi government had approved construction of 13,029 individual bunkers and 1,431 community bunkers. Among the total bunkers, 4,918 individual and 372 community bunkers were to be constructed in Rajouri, and 688 community and 1,320 individual bunkers were to be constructed in Poonch.
Rajouri and Poonch districts are most susceptible to casualties during cross-LoC shelling. Yet, official figures say that construction of not a single bunker has been completed. Tendering process also remains incomplete.
â€œThe cost which the government had sanctioned for these bunkers was also very low. People were not willing to come forward for the construction work. Anyway, construction of thousands of bunkers was not even possible at that cost,â€ Deputy Commissioner of Poonch, Rahul Yadav told News18.
The government had assigned Rs 2.4 lakh for individual bunkers and rupees 8 lakh for community bunkers.
â€œWe had to raise the costs and it was only after that people came to take the contracts,â€ Yadav said.
The funds for community bunkers was increased by Rs 3 lakh and Rs 1 lakh for individual bunkers.
The amount of bunkers is also not sufficient and in case of heavy shelling, people need to be evacuated, said district officials.
With Pakistan, India shares 3,323km long border, of which 221 km runs along IB and 740km falls under LoC in Jammu and Kashmir.
Over 100 civilians have lost their lives and 300 civilians have been injured in the last three years in border skirmishes.
As per the district administration, tenders for 519 community bunkers have been taken and work on them has started. But there is no response for the tender of 169 bunkers in Poonch district alone. Similarly, work on 230 individual bunkers has begun but for 270 bunkers there has been no response from the contractors.
The construction on these bunkers will not be completed before June, said officials.
The situation is no different in the other districts as nearly 200 bunkers in Rajouri are still under construction.
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