Artillery, troops move to Punjab border, evacuation begins

Artillery, troops move to Punjab border, evacuation begins Chandigarh : Army columns with artillery moved towards Punjab's border with Pakistan on Thursday amid rising tensions between India and Pakistan after New Delhi's surgical strikes across the LoC.

Army convoys could be seen moving towards the border belt in various border districts of Punjab including Fazilka, Ferozepur, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur and Pathankot.

Punjab was on maximum alert on Thursday while villagers close to the border with Pakistan were told to move to safer locations following the "surgical strikes" on across the Line of Control.

Residents of border villagers were moved to "safer areas".

"Punjab is in a state of maximum alert," Harcharan Bains, the advisor to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, said here.

He said appropriate steps were being taken to ensure the safety of people in the border areas.

Badal on Thursday put the entire government and political machinery on an emergency mode following developments on the India-Pakistan border.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Badal over telephone to request him to immediately start the process of evacuation of the people in the villages falling within 10 km of the border, a Punjab government spokesman said here.

The request follow apprehensions that Pakistan could retaliate. The Punjab government has ordered the evacuation of villages in a 10-km belt.

Local authorities used loudspeakers of gurdwaras to ask residents in the border villages to leave their homes and villages.

All schools and other institutions in the border belt have been ordered shut. All leave of Punjab Police and medical personnel in the border areas has been cancelled.

Informed sources said the Border Security Force (BSF) was mobilizing its troops and strengthening the security along the border.

Punjab shares a 553-km border with Pakistan.

The BSF has cancelled the Retreat ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border joint check-post (JCP) at Attari, 30 km from Amritsar, officials said.

The BSF and district authorities have asked visitors and tourists not to move towards Attari for the ceremony on Thursday. It is not clear when the ceremony will resume.

Badal held an emergency meeting here with senior civil and police officers and asked them to direct district officials in the border areas to oversee the evacuation process.

"The Chief Minister directed the DCs to identify suitable location for setting up camps and ensure that none of any residents being evacuated was put to any inconvenience or hardships," an official said.

The Chief Minister spoke to the concerned cabinet ministers and MLAs to camp in these border districts in which their assembly constituencies fall to liaise with the district administration to ensure the safe movement of the residents.

Badal directed the Chief Secretary to immediately release Rs 1 crore each to all the Deputy Commissioners of the six border districts to meet any exigency.

(IANS)

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