Fearing delay in ratifying of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) by the Indian Parliament due to the ongoing controversy over land acquisition Bill, a group of enclave dwellers, belonging to both the Indian and Bangladeshi sides, have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying they have identified 100 acres of land that they would donate to the West Bengal government to rehabilitate the affected families once the enclave exchange treaty is implemented.
In the letter to the Prime Minister, the Indo-Bangla Enclave Exchange Committee — comprising enclave dwellers from both India and Bangladesh, and political leaders — has also explained that they have made “arrangements” for food grains for six months to feed the affected families.
Given the logjam in Parliament over the land Bill, and the disagreements between the BJP-run central government and the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal, the committee fears that the LBA — which allows India and Bangladesh to swap enclaves embedded in their respective territories — may not be ratified anytime soon.
The ground-breaking accord on the border demarcation and exchange of enclaves was signed by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh in September 2011, but the Indian Parliament has yet to ratify it. It is expected that the government will try to get Bill passed when Parliament meets again on April 20.
Diptiman Sengupta, general secretary of Indo-Bangla Enclave Exchange Committee (India chapter) said they would submit copies of the letter to the district magistrate as well. The letter, which has been accessed by The Indian Express, says that the committee has already identified 100 acres of private land in the Bangladeshi enclaves in India that could be donated to the West Bengal government if land is required for rehabilitation.
“There are at least 161 owners of 100 acres of land. All of them have agreed to donate their land voluntarily. These are undisputed plots and the owners have clean deeds for these plots. We have already submitted documents of 15.7 acres of land donated by 33 land owners for building houses for the migrated families of Indian enclaves in Bangladesh,” Sengupta told The Indian Express.
He said the committee members wanted to speak to union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on March 31 when he visited Chhitmahal, as the enclaves are known locally, but were not allowed to to do.
“We are apprehensive about the fact that the controversy over the land Bill might delay the ratification of the LBA. That is why we want to apprise both the central and state governments that no land needs to be acquired for the rehabilitation project. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also sought funds for the rehabilitation programme from the Centre. We have arranged for foodgrains that can feed 150 families for next six months. We just want the Bill to be ratified in this session as was promised,” Sengupta added.
Meanwhile, top sources in the district administration claimed that the state government, too, has identified land for the rehabilitation of the migrated families.
“The committee has told us about 15.7 acres of land that private owners want to donate. But we cannot accept it officially till we receive proper direction from the government,” said a senior official of the district administration on condition of anonymity.
The official added that the government has a list of Indians living in enclaves in Bangladesh, which was prepared after a joint head count conducted by the Indian and Bangladeshi governments in 2011.
Golam Mostafa, general secretary of the Indo-Bangla Enclave Exchange Committee (Bangladesh chapter) said they agreed with the arrangements made by their Indian counterparts.
“We recently carried out a survey in which we listed 149 families — one Muslim family and the rest Hindus — who want to migrate to India from the enclaves in Bangladesh. So, post ratification, around 750 people would migrate to India from enclaves in Bangladesh,” Golam Mostafa, who is based in Kurigram, Bangladesh, told The Indian Express over the phone.
P Ulaganatha, DM, Cooch Behar, said, “We are yet to receive the letter. We will act according to the directions of the government after receiving the letter.”