CHOLISTAN - The situation in Cholistan is far from being called drought or famine-like though a long dry spell has brought difficulties to a section of people in this part of Punjab.

Efforts are on to arrest the situation from going worse. As such no panic is among the people of Cholistan though they are worried about the scarcity of water and its need in future.

During the last seven months, Cholistan with 26,000sqkm of land and population from 150,000 to 200,000, had meager or no rain at all.  As a result, water reservoirs for animals ran out of water and the crops which depend o rainwater were badly affected, but not to an alarming proportion. Of this measurement of land, only 10 percent is desert which is stated to be most affected. The villages are sporadic and isolated and though they were also hit by water shortage, the situation there is under control.

The chief minister, during his visit to the remote areas of Cholistan, received firsthand information of the situation and himself saw how serious it was and how he could come to the rescue of the people.

He was briefed by the commissioner, secretaries, ministers and adviser; he heard problems of the locals after personally interacting with them. They informed the CM of their problems, mostly related to their development schemes and no one, despite being repeatedly asked by the CM, affirmed that any casualty took place or they were losing their cattle or had run short of food.

Some locals, including those from the rival political parties, spoke about the migration of the people, but it was a routine matter for wheat and canola harvesting. No deaths of kids or women were seen or reported anywhere. So the visit of the CM was just an opportunity for the locals to communicate with him about water lines, canals, roads, allotment of lands and education problems.

The chief minister went to a village house where he was offered an ajrak. At another house, he was presented a chaddar. One may think that it was a show managed or planned by the administration and police officers to impress the CM and give him an impression of goody-goody everywhere though the ground facts tell the truth. An actual drought or famine entails pathetic scenes of death of people, their crying for food and water, corpses of animals lying at various places, exodus of the masses to safer places and the mob protests.

From the low altitude aerial view nothing of that sort was seen anywhere; however, the dry weather had made the land dry while the sandy desert area was naturally dotted with shrubs and bushes with its own habitat, which was quite natural.

As to shortage of water and the health and food problems, the government took timely action as soon as the media drew attention to it. The CM first of all set up a committee comprising ministers, the chief secretary, secretaries and others, which is busy taking care of the problems and attending to emergency and urgent needs. They have set camps to provide health care and vaccinate animals, besides providing bladders to the people each containing 5,000 liter of water sufficient for two/three days of the village people. 

The chief minister directed the secretaries to visit the area twice in a week and the chief secretary once in every 10 days. He himself announced to visit again after 10 days. The CM announced Rs 2.37 billion package which was found more than what they expected. With this amount, they would be provided with potable water, canal water, new roads and repair of the present ones. He warned the officers against committing any negligence in their duties towards the needy of the area.

The CM, addressing the people, also got enraged over some media report which he believed had distorted the facts and exaggerated the situation. He lamented the reports were not based on facts.

From the input he received from the locals the CM said it clearly contradicted any kind of drought in the area or any extraordinary situation.  Despite all, it is a fact that the locals are awaiting rains which are not forthcoming; the situation may get worse. Announcements have been made to take precautionary measures to avert the possible worst in future. And it is up to the government and the officialdom to act and keep the normalcy in Cholistan intact. Otherwise things will not look as they do today.