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House panel flays Govt for delay in rehabilitation package

House panel flays Govt for delay in rehabilitation package
A parliamentary panel severely criticised Union Home Ministry for not implementing the rehabilitation packages agreed as part of the exchange of Bangladeshi enclaves. The number of people who opted for Indian citizenship after the exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh was 14,864.

After the historic ratification of India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina, Union Cabinet sanctioned a rehabilitation package and agreed to carry out up-gradation of infrastructure in Bangladeshi enclaves and in some parts of Cooch Behar district at a cost of Rs 1,005.99 crore. The package granted by the Indian government was to be implemented by West Bengal government in five years from 2015-16 to 2019-20.
Recently, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was in New Delhi and made a representation to Prime Minister Modi for the release of funds for this internationally-important project. The demand for the release of funds found mention in the report of Standing Committee of Home Affairs which was presented in both the houses of Parliament.

The report says, "The committee is displeased with the fact that against an allocation of Rs 340 crores in the last Budget Estimate of 2016-17 for rehabilitation package and up-gradation of infrastructure of the Bangladesh Enclaves, Rs 200 crores were surrendered at Revised stage and even after that, no expenditure was incurred by the Mnistry up to December 2016."

As part of the rehabilitation package, creation and upgradation of infrastructure such as pucca road, kutcha road, drain, culverts, bridges, tubewell, piped water supply, deep tubewell, primary, hugh schools, health centres, Anganwari centres, household electricity in 51 former Bangladeshi Enclaves integrated in Indian territory were decided.

According to the report, "The committee is particularly anguished at the reports of these persons living in abject poverty and left to fend for themselves even for most basic necessities."

The report goes on to say that the committee would like to strongly emphasise the importance of expeditiously implementing this rehabilitation package for the persons who have expressed their faith in India and opted for Indian citizenship with a hope that Indian government will provide them essential facilities and decent means of livelihood and infrastructure.

The standing committee recommends that Home Ministry should not let returnees from Bangladeshi Enclaves suffer anymore and should implement the rehabilitation package. The committee recommends that ministry of Home Affairs may sanction some amount of cash relief to be paid on a monthly basis to all the families who opted for Indian citizenship subsequent to the exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh.

Gautam Lahiri

Gautam Lahiri

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