Srinagar: The army has launched Operation Falah (Welfare) to clear Kashmir`s Tosa Maidan area of unexploded shells.
So far, explosions in the area have claimed over 63 lives.
After a local youth was killed due to an unexploded shell on July 15 this year, the army decided to clean up the area to avoid any other loss of life in the future.
The President of Tosa Maidan Save Front, Mohammad Maqbool Margay told ANI, "We are very thankful to army for the step taken. Till now 87 people have already been killed. Moreover, if we construct a house here then we are forced to build it again the next year as they are either shaken or fall off completely because of the blasts."
"Twenty percent of people have gone deaf and around 30 percent residents have developed heart problems. Water is also getting polluted," he said adding, "We welcome the step taken by the army officials. We have also been promised that from now on no firing will take place in this area. We hope that the promise made will be fulfilled. Many innocent lives will be saved through this."
Lt. Gen. Subrata Saha, General Officer commanding of the Indian Army`s 15 Corps, said, "We are launching this mission with the intention of clearing off this area of any unexploded bombs. This place is used for firing by the army, BSF, CRPF and Air Force since 1964. During the peak of militancy between 1997 and 2005 a large number of militants have been neutralized, a lot of hideouts busted, so there is a large number of left out explosives of that time."
"The intention is to clear this. We will work initially on the peripheral areas and then look at the impact area. Our plan is to try and clear it off by three months. You would realise and appreciate the size of the area and terrain through which we are operating is undulating. There are many hide outs that we have to look at. But nonetheless we will make it our endeavor to clear it in three month`s time," he added
Talking about a few other initiatives, Lt. Gen.Saha said, "Alongside this, the villages that are here around the area, we will be conducting some medical camps and sports activities. All of this is happening in collaboration with the Panch, Sarpanch, the chairman, and where ever there are local sports clubs we will enquire about their suggestions and conduct it."
"Keeping in mind the beautiful surroundings that we are in, we will try and contribute to that as well by going in for some tree plantations with the advice of the local forest officials so that we add to the already existing efforts in this place," he added.
Tosa Maidan in Budgam District has been in the midst of an ongoing controversy over re-notification of firing range for the Tosa Maidan meadow.
During the peak of militancy, scores of encounters took place and many ammunition dumping sites were also unearthed.