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'Border residents rue slow pace of bunker construction along LoC and IB in JK'

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Press Trust of India Jammu
Living on the edge amid consistent shelling and frequently rising Indo-Pak tension, the border village residents near here have been left ruing the snail's pace of bunker building along the LoC and IB.
The government has been able to build less than 1,000 bunkers last year despite sanctioning nearly 15,000 of them.
As per official figures, the Centre approved the construction of 14,460 bunkers in December 2017 at a cost of Rs 415.73 crore for border residents facing consistent Pakistani shelling along the LoC and IB in Jammu division.
While 7,298 bunkers were sanctioned for Rajouri and Poonch districts along the LoC,7,162 were meant for the residents living along the IB in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts.
Yet, only around 900 individual bunkers and 60 community ones have been built in the districts, officials said.
The border village residents Thursday appeared acutely wary and apprehensive of their safety and security amid the intense mortar shelling in the wake of rising Indo-Pak tension following India's air strike at a Jaish-e-Mohammad terror facility at Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan.
The IAF fighter jets, in a pre-dawn, preemptive, non-military operation, Tuesday pounded a JeM camp at Balakot in reply to the terror outfit's February 14 strike in Pulwama in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
In reply to the IAF's strikes, Pakistani fighter jets Wednesday intruded into Indian airspace to target military installations, but their bid was foiled by IAF jets, which shot down a PAF plane.
In the aerial skirmishes, India, however, lost one of its jets and its pilot, who bailed out of the damaged plane and landed in Pakistan, was held in captivity by Pakistan. And the rising tension between the two neighbours have resulted into intense shelling at the borders.
Bharat Kumar (45), a resident of Gharana village located near the International Border in R S Pura sector of Jammu region, said not a single bunker was built in his village in last one year.
"We are living in constant fear. We have no option but to run for our lives if Pakistan targets our village," he said, adding the sole community bunker, built years ago, lies in a dilapidated condition and is not worth taking shelter in.
Ratipaul, a resident of nearby Arnia village, said some of the families in the village have already moved to safer places due to the intensified shelling.
"We are having sleepless nights. The villagers have been asked to stay home after dusk and remain alert but what can we do without underground bunkers?" he asked.
He said his villages have a few bunkers but all of them have become dirty and defunct due to lack of maintenance.
"These bunkers have been filled with rain water and mud as nobody is taking care of these vital structures."

While the construction of bunkers began along the IB in Jammu, Kathua and Samba last year, it got delayed along the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch over cost escalation.
The authorities in two districts have set up dozens of community bunkers at worst-hit shelling prone areas, but the promised individual bunkers will take some time, the officials said.
The two districts have faced rampant ceasefire breaches by Pakistan on daily basis since beginning of the year. Over the past three days of increased hostilities, the people have been left braving the intense shelling with only a few of them having been able to move to safer places.
Governor Satya Pal Malik had told LoC residents last December that the construction of bunkers in Rajouri and Poonch would be started soon.
The construction of bunkers will start soon as the Union Home Ministry has given its nod to our proposal. Compared to the cost on the construction of bunkers along the IB in Jammu, Kathua and Samba district, it was costing more due to topography of the region as the material has to be taken by foot, the governor had said.
But border village residents continue to bear the brunt in absence of bunkers.
"In absence of bunkers, we are on the line of direct fire from Pakistan. We pray that better sense should prevail and the hostilities end immediately without further escalation," said Ramesh Choudhary, sarpanch of Deing-Kalal area of Nowshera sector of Rajouri.
He said the construction of bunkers was started recently.
As per officials, 145 community and individual bunkers in Nowshera and 20 more in Sunderbani area are at different phases of execution.
Pakistani jets had intruded into the Indian air space in this sector on Wednesday.
While 160-square feet individual bunkers are designed to house eight persons, the 800-square feet community bunkers would accommodate 40 people.
The officials said there are plans to build highest number of individual bunkers, totalling 4,918, in Rajouri, which will have 372 community bunkers while Kathua district will have 3,076 individual and 243 community bunkers.
The highest number of community bunkers, totalling 688, would be built along the LoC in Poonch district where the border residents would also be provided with 1,320 individual bunkers, the officials said.
They said Jammu would get 1,200 individual and 120 community bunkers, while 2,515 individual and eight community bunkers would be built in nearby Samba district.
India shares a 3,323-km-long border with Pakistan of which 221 km of the IB and 740 km of the LoC fall in Jammu and Kashmir.

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First Published: Feb 28 2019 | 8:10 PM IST

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