By Asit Jolly
BBC News, Chandigarh
Plans by India to realign its electrified border fencing with neighbouring Pakistan in order to curb smuggling have been welcomed by thousands of local farmers, who argue that the move will “liberate” over 4,000 acres of their fertile land.
For over two decades access to these lands in northern Punjab – an area divided between the two nuclear rivals at independence 60 years ago – has been strictly regulated by the paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF) manning the Indian frontier.
Their stance has caused local farmers immense hardship.
Security officials said ironing out wrinkles in the 462km (287 miles) long fence, located between 50m and several kilometres from the international border – would benefit hundreds of Punjabi farmers. Counter-infiltration
The central home ministry and BSF officials said work on shifting the fence is expected to begin early next year. However they were unable to confirm completion deadlines.
Relocating the multi-tiered fencing – and related infrastructure used to illuminate it – is also expected to cost the central exchequer a “very large” sum, officials said.
The elaborate fence was erected in the late 1980s as a counter-infiltration measure at the height of the Sikh separatist movement.
It spread across Punjab’s Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepur districts to stem the inflow of arms and trained militants from Pakistan into the insurgency-ridden Indian state.