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Millennium Post

Bangladesh land bill needs rethink

The Bangladesh Land Boundary Bill, which provides for exchange of territories between India and Bnagladesh and demarcation of the border as per the 1974 Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Mujibur Rahman agreement, has a number of unaddressed issues, which need to be resolved before it can merit a passage in the house. Despite a slew of positives, such as its implications for Indo-Bangla relations, addressing human rights problems including right to livelihood, among others, it’s not for nothing that the Trinamool Congress and Asom Gana Parishad have been stonewalling its passage, with the TMC spokesperson and MP Derek O’ Brien promising to take the matter up with the external affairs ministry. The massive exchange of 111 enclaves with strong Indian presence, with 51 of those with strong Bangladeshi presence, is meant to open a new era in the relationship, but is glossing over factors other than merely the human displacement and resettlement problem.

      While it’s true that the deal is likely to give citizenship rights to about 52,000 people – 37,000 in Bangladesh and about 15,000 on the Indian side – the result of the land swap might actually send in a significant population from the states of Assam and West Bengal to the neighbouring country, with possibility of secessionist movement gaining momentum in the northeastern and eastern states. In fact, the land pact is likely to benefit the central government of India and Bangladeshi government more than it would positively affect the two state governments, since they are likely to lose a chunk of their supporters, once this bill becomes a reality. Moreover, there are repercussions pertaining to water sharing, with a sizeable chunk of fertile and irrigational land becoming Bangladeshi territory after the exchange, thereby adding to the woes of the respective state governments of West Bengal and Assam. Hence, it is important to reassess the Land Boundary Bill, and take into account the minutest effects that might negatively influence the people living in these two states, adding to the already existing shares of infiltration, terrorism and refugee problems.
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