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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

In ‘no man’s land’ on border, wait for access to India goes on

They are Indians, but they need to get permission to buy even 1kg of salt and unless there is an emergency they could not enter their own country after 6pm.

Written by Atri Mitra | Malda |
Updated: April 26, 2021 6:17:43 am
india bangladesh border, BSF, Taltoli, rehabilitation, india bangladesh relation, ground reports from West Bengal, West Bengal news, indian expressEvery election, 26 families of Taltoli renew their demand for ‘proper access’ to India. (Express Photo by Shashi Ghosh)

FOR HUNDREDS of people who live in villages on ‘no man’s land’ between the India and Bangladesh border, it is a recurring demand of access to their own country, which supersedes all other issues during the poll period, even covid. Cut off by fencing in 2006, voters are only allowed in the country when BSF opens gates at 6 am and they must return by 6 pm.

They are Indians, but they need to get permission to buy even 1kg of salt and unless there is an emergency they could not enter their own country after 6pm.

Before every election, 26 families of Taltoli demand their proper rehabilitation and include them in India. “Every time, all political party gave us assurance but all in vain. We did not get proper access to our own country. Our children could not go to school and college properly. We have to submit our Aadhar card or voter card even we want to buy 10gm of jeera powder or 1 kg of rice”, said 35-year-old Biswajit Halder.

BSF officers of the Taltoli outpost said that the fencing work started in the Bamongola block of Maldah district in 2006. At that time many families stayed in the Taltoli area but when they saw it will fall under “no man’s land” (In BSF language, this area is said as “Zero Line”) between India and Bangladesh, they decided to shift towards India.

“But we had nothing in that side. Our house, land and agricultural land all are on this side. So, we 26 families have no option but to reside in Taltoli. The Indian government assured us to rehabilitate us to Indian land, but they did not give us land till date,” said 68-year-old Nitai Biswas.

The villagers complained about the lack of infrastructure and restrictions on movement after 6pm as a major hindrance to their normal lives.

Alpana Mistri, 56-year-old, said, “In this village, we have now almost 150 people. Our children face many problems. Youths could not survive here if they only depend on agriculture because the fields remain submerged for almost four months during the rainy season. So, they are forced to go Bengaluru, Kerala, Chennai, Delhi to join as construction workers.”

She further added, “We have problem getting our children married as outsiders can’t stay here in the night. They must get permission for that. Youths of our village can’t marry girls who are staying in proper India. We have no school, bazar, shop, and health centre.”

Echoing her sentiments, Archana Sarkar (17) said, “Wherever we go, we have to return by 6pm. In case of an emergency, we have to get special permission from the BSF. The nearest college is 8km from here at Pakua. The Bamongola Police Station is at least 3km from here.”

Since 1998, CPM and BJP have a strong presence in the Habibpur constituency. Local CPM MLA Khagen Murmu joined BJP in 2018 and became MP in this area. After that BJP has a stronghold in this area. The party also won the panchayat election.

Gram Pradhan Subhash Bhakta, of BJP, said, “Last year, we arranged pakka road and drinking water station for the Taltoli villagers. They got electricity under the Central Government scheme in 2016. But, it is tough for them to lead this type of life.”

Bhakta claimed, “If there is double engine government after May 2, then our effort to bring these villagers in the mainstream will be easier. We will have proper rehabilitation for these people from the central government.”

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