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Land swap: Top babus from Bengal, MHA ‘brush up’ LBA

In a significant diplomatic move, top bureaucrats from West Bengal and Union Home Ministry (MHA) met on Friday in the national capital to ‘brush up’ the implementation of Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) meant to resolve the Indo-Bangladesh Enclave issue, which was pending since 1947.

Sources said PM Narendra Modi is all set to visit Bangladesh early next year and wants the MHA and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to complete the formalities before his visit to the neighbouring country. On Thursday, West Bengal Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra, state Home Secretary Basudeb Banerjee and Director General of Police, GMP Reedy had a marathon meeting with Home Secretary Anil Goswami and Secretary Border Management (BM), Sneh Lata Kumar.

“Our Joint Secretary (Human Rights), Rashmi Goel, Joint Secretary, BM, Hitesh Kumar Makwana and Joint Secretary (Rehabilitation), K.K. Pathak are also in the loop to finalise all the minute details while going ahead with the LBA,” MHA sources said.

Though Mitra refused to comment anything on the matter, ministry sources said, the conclusion of the meeting was demarcated in four separate parameters, which include dossiers on transfer of enclaves, land involved, population to be benefited under government schemes and their rehabilitation.

Under LBA, India will transfer 111 enclaves (land with people belonging to Bangladesh but encircled by Indian Territory) measuring 17, 160.63 acres to Bangladesh and will receive from Bangladesh 51 enclaves measuring 7, 110.2 acres. In addition, India will acquire 2777.038 acres adverse possession areas and transfer 2267.682 acres adverse possession areas to Bangladesh.

In terms of population, India has to bear the responsibility of nearly 14,215 people (as per government statistic, which might be increased subject to villagers request on where they want to stay). On the other side, Bangladesh has to take care of nearly 37,369 people, with the several government schemes.  

Speaking to Millennium Post, Bharat Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Coordination Committee (BBEECC), Deeptiman Sengupta said, “We welcome the initiative taken by the Union government as this will be a boon for several villagers who does not have their identity even after so many years of Independence. The crux of the meeting is on how to rehabilitate the villagers by setting up a monitoring body to look in to the whole affairs and cost required besides formalities in the foreign affairs level.”

When asked how it will look like once the LBA will be implemented, he said, “It will be like a size of ‘Maha Gram Panchayat’. Soon after its implementation, there will be a Gram Panchayat, who will execute the process of handing over voter ID cards to the villagers with help of local election body before the Municipal poll in Bengal in 2015.”

Significantly, in a first-ever visit, Bangladesh President Mohammad Abdul Hamid is also arriving in the national capital for a two-day stay on December 18 and 19 and PM Modi wants to finalise things to do away with the initial formalities with him during his stay.

LBA implementation was agreed between previous the UPA government and Bangladesh government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2011. The objective was end the misery of nearly 50,000 people who are entrapped in adverse possession areas and are deprived of development benefits.
On December 1, the standing committee, which is led by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and has TMC MP Sugata Bose, recommended that the LBA should be implemented, which was later welcomed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

“We are in favour of exchanging enclaves with Bangladesh. If the problem is resolved, it will be inscribed in golden letters in the diplomatic relations between the two countries. We want a rehab package because many people would come (to Bengal) from Bangladesh. We need to construct roads, schools, houses for them and provide them with food and develop infrastructure. For this, the chief secretary has prepared a report,” Mamata had said earlier.

There are five states including West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, which shares border with the Bangladesh. For quite some several political leaders in these states are against the government’s decision on the Bill. The government needs a two-thirds majority in both Houses to ratify the agreement.

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