The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has pulled up the Meghalaya government for its tardy approach to completing fencing of the Bangladesh border, around 70 km remaining to be fenced. The work has been stalled for local reasons.
During a recent coordination meeting, the ministry asked Meghalaya government officials to expedite fencing work as the area was prone to infiltration by militants and illegal migration.
Meghalaya shares a 443-km border with Bangladesh, of which around 70 km is unfenced and has terrain difficult to patrol. From 2008 to 2013, the state government identified around 18,000 illegal Bangladeshi migrants who were deported.
In November 2013, two Border Security Force (BSF) personnel were shot by alleged militants in South West Khasi Hills district bordering Bangladesh.
“There are lot of local issues that have to be addressed by the state government. The MHA can only implement construction work when the state has given all clearences as land is a state subject. The slow approach in solving these problems is proving costly for national security, “ said a senior ministry official.
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MHA said construction work in Meghalaya had been suspended for long due to protests by the Coordination Committee on International Border (CCIB). The CCIB is a conglomerate of organisations like Khasi Students Union (KSU), Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP), Hynniewtrep National Youth Front (HNYF), Synjuk Seng Samla Shnong (SSSS), Jaintia Youth Federation (JYF), Federal Council of War Mihngi-War Jaintia, headmen and representatives of villages along the border.
In a reply to parliamentary panel, the MHA had replied, “the problems of land acquisition and public protest in Meghalaya and Tripura are being settled by active participation of Land Revenue department of the concerned state government, executing agency and BSF. The role of CCIB is important in this case. In Meghalaya, construction works under Phase-II project, in a stretch of about 133 km remained suspended due to protest by the CCIB… 62.55 km has been sorted out in November 2011.”
With almost 1,899 kilometres of land and riverine bodies bordering Pakistan and Bangladesh yet to be fenced due to reasons including land acquisition, forest clearances and permission of state governments, the MHA is drafting the Border Infrastructure Bill, to help it tide over the crisis.