WITH the arrival of 67 members of 19 families in Cooch Behar district Thursday from a Bangladesh enclave (chhitmahal) as a part of implementation of the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and 2011 Protocol, the state government pointed out that the Centre is yet to release the funds required for the settlement and infrastructure development package agreed between the two governments.
After a visit to Cooch Behar, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi dated August 10, seeking central funds to rehabilitate the enclave dwellers who arrive in India from Bangladesh. “I am happy to inform you that all the ground level activities on implementation of our Land Boundary Agreement are progressing well. The people have accepted the terms of settlement and the infrastructure development package agreed to by the state and central government. While I assure you that we will not hesitate to commit our funds for start-up activities, it would only be fair for the central government to release the amount as approved earlier ‘in principle’ by the Union Home Ministry immediately to take forward the rehabilitation and infrastructure development work without any delay,” she had said.
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The official exchange of enclaves with the arrival of those who opted to come to India will continue in the coming week. The Cooch Behar district administration has made arrangements for their stay at rehabilitation centres built at Changrabandha in Mekhliganj, Chilahati in Haldibari and Sahebganj in Dinhata. Those arriving will also be provided with cooked food and children would get special food like milk and eggs, while after a month, they will be allowed to get essential commodities through the ration system free of cost, said an official. “Arrangements were being made to provide them with banking and Aadhaar cards soon. After two years, permanent shelters will be arranged for them,” he added.
In the first month, the new arrivals will be staying in makeshift homes that have been designated as rehabilitation centres at Mekhliganj Agriculture Farm.
Meanwhile the TMC is ensuring that the party doesn’t lose out on harnessing maximum political mileage from the historic, planned exchange of parcels of each other’s territory, concentrated around 200 enclaves. While the distinctive blue-and-white canopy was erected, folk dance and music performances were arranged to welcome the new arrivals from Bangladesh chhitmahals.
However, the state government seemed very wary about the potential issue of financial deficit. “We are afraid that paucity of funds will become an issue. Right now, we have the funds to ensure that initial preparations aren’t affected. But West Bengal is an extremely cash-strapped state and that needs to be factored in. The quicker the central government ensures the release of funds, the better,” said a government official.
Both governments of India and Bangladesh need to ensure the facilitation of trouble-free movement of the enclave dwellers from both countries before the stipulated date of November 30, 2015. The Indian government had sanctioned a Rs 3,048-crore package for rehabilitation of the people affected by the exchange of enclaves under the LBA implementation. Between July 31, 2015 and June 30, 2016, the entire process, including physical exchange of enclaves and land parcels in adverse possession along with boundary demarcation, is expected to be completed.