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Post-protests, Home Ministry relaxes terms in Bru deal

Besides financial assistance, the four-corner agreement also provides for free ration for two years and a monthly assistance of Rs 5,000 for each family.

Written by Rahul Tripathi | New Delhi |
Updated: August 19, 2018 7:07:04 am
Home Ministry sources said Bru communities in Tripura have also been assured that on relocation, at least 50 refugees will be settled in each village. Home Ministry sources said Bru communities in Tripura have also been assured that on relocation, at least 50 refugees will be settled in each village.

The Union Home Ministry has agreed to relax conditions laid down in the ‘four-corner agreement’ signed with Bru migrants for their repatriation from Tripura to Mizoram.

Leaders of the Members of Bru Displacement Forum (MBDPF), who signed the agreement in July this year, were forced to pull out of the deal within two weeks of signing it due to strong protests by the Bru community in Tripura against certain terms of the deal.

In 1997, a bout of ethnic violence had forced thousands of people from the Bru tribe to leave their homes in Mizoram and settle down in Tripura. Twenty years later, on July 3 this year, the Centre announced the signing of a “historical agreement” with the Governments of Mizoram and Tripura, the Union Home Ministry and the MBDPF. As part of the agreement, 32876 persons from 5,407 families, presently staying in temporary camps in Tripura, would be repatriated to Mizoram before September 30. The deal also specified a financial assistance of Rs 435 crore over a period of two years.

Each of the 5,407 Bru families who moved from Tripura to Mizoram was to be given a one-time financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh to be kept as fixed deposit in the name of the head of the family. However, according to the initial agreement, the cash assistance was to be provided only after three years of uninterrupted stay in Mizoram.

However, following strong protests from Bru refugees in Tripura over the three-year condition, Home Ministry sources said the norms may now be eased.”For those (Brus) who are willing to return to Mizoram, we might relax the period of stay for cash assistance of Rs 4 lakh from three years to two or even one and a half years,” an official explained adding that refugees may also be allowed to withdraw 90 per cent of the Rs 4 lakh assistance as bank loan immediately after their return.

The Centre may also dilute the conditions in place for financial assistance. According to the original agreement, a house building assistance of Rs 1.5 lakh was to be disbursed in three instalments. This could now be relaxed further, with those Bru refugees building a house on their return to Mizoram being allowed to take the Rs 1.5 lakh assistance in a single installment or two, an official explained.

Home Ministry sources said Bru communities in Tripura have also been assured that on relocation, at least 50 refugees will be settled in each village. The MBDPF had demanded cluster housing for all those being repatriated, a proposal that was rejected by the Mizoram government.

Besides financial assistance, the four-corner agreement also provides for free ration for two years and a monthly assistance of Rs 5,000 for each family. Identity documents such as ration cards and Aadhaar would be issued by the Tripura government. Some of the other measures being planned for the resettlement of these families in Mizoram include Eklavya residential schools, land for Jhum cultivation, permanent residential and ST certificates, and a special development project.

According to the agreement, the Mizoram government would ensure security for all repatriated refugees who were identified and verified as per the 1997 electoral rolls of Mizoram. The Election Commission has already directed the state to issue photo voter identity cards to Bru migrants in Mizoram, officials said.

The Home Ministry had earlier warned that all Bru refugee camps in north Tripura would be shut down after September 25.

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