FEROZEPUR: Living on the edge, the hapless farmers belonging to the villages along the India-Pakistan border here are seemingly caught between the proverbial "devil and the deep sea".
With a hostile neighbour, Pakistan, on the one side and the ravaging Sutlej on the other, these border residents are yet to taste the fruits of freedom more than seven decades after Independence.
Not only the hostilities between the two countries have a direct bearing on their well-being, the Sutlej too plays havoc with their lives almost every year.
Scores of villages like Tindiwala, Kaluwala, Chandiwala, Kassoke, Kamalewala, Khunder Gatti, situated between the Zero Line and the right flank of Dhussi "bundh", face the nightmare of floods what they have seen almost every year.
At times, like in 1988 and 2006 when their villages were totally submerged, it can be worse.
Even during the normal days, the only mode of transportation available for some of these villagers is wooden bera (indigenously built boat) which ferries them to the mainland.
However, when the river is in spate, they remain trapped inside their "kuchha" houses as even the 'bera' no longer remains an option due to the lurking danger it poses to their safety.
Only the children go to schools using this makeshift boat.
Malkit and four other students Gurpreet, Aman, Balwinder and Kulwinder, from Kaluwala, go to nearest government school in Gatti Rajoke using the boat daily.
"Almost every second year, the river water inundates our dwellings," said Mangal Singh of Chinniwala village, adding that during the last five years, his fields have been wrecked by Sutlej thrice.
"Every year the same story is repeated but nothing has changed here on ground," he said.
Hundreds like him including Darshan Singh, Gurmit, Sukhbir and others, all doing farming in this area, echo his sentiments.
What to talk of the floods season which comes as their worst nightmare, the villages here otherwise also do not have access to basic amenities like education, healthcare, potable water, sewerage or proper roads.
"We have got used to floods now," said Shingar Singh, adding that our fields get inundated almost every alternate year when excess water is released from the dams. The bogie of compensation is also a farce, he said.
"After moving from the pillar to post, we got a meagre compensation against damaged caused to our crops. But even those cheques bounce when presented in the bank," said Kulwinder, another farmer.
"When it comes to personal matters like getting the right matrimonial alliance for prospective brides and grooms, we are the suffered lot," said Chanan Singh, adding, people from other parts of the state are not willing to get their son or daughter married in our villages due to the fear of floods or war.
"People think that their daughter will have to go through immense hardships if she comes and settles here," said Bohar Singh, who is looking for a suitable match for his son who is well past marriageable age now.
Even the girls from this border area find it difficult to find a suitable groom.
"Now we have started losing hope. The frequent flooding of our fields has shattered our economy," said Maggar. "Working in fields under hawk eyes of gun-totting BSF sleuths, we do not have enough resources or skills to go and settle elsewhere but do not want our children to settle here now," he said.
"The government had promised us that we will be made owner of the land but nothing has been done yet," said Desha Singh, his moist eyes looking towards the flooded fields.
The political leaders come only during the polls, however, "we are left to fend for ourselves for rest of the time", said Lakha, adding that even the DCs and SSPs never turn up in these areas.
Border district Ferozepur is among other areas which are hit by flood in Punjab, submerging around 400 villages.