A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi indicated the government’s willingness to ratify the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) with Bangladesh, contrary to the BJP’s pre-election stand, the standing committee on external affairs on Monday asked the government to present, without any delay, a bill to give effect to the LBA.
The standing committee, that is headed by Congress’s Shashi Tharoor and has Trinamool Congress’s Sugata Bose and BJP’s Ananthkumar Hegde and Varun Gandhi as members, noted that the LBA was in the national interest of the country and will pave way for broader ties with Bangladesh. In its report presented in Lok Sabha Monday, the panel said the pact may result in a “modest” demographic change in bordering areas and observed that the security issues arising out of the influx of population should be considered seriously by the government.
The Constitution (119th Amendment) Bill, 2013, is aimed at ratifying the LBA under the Indira-Mujib pact of 1974 and involves exchanging areas and people on either side of the Indo-Bangla border. The agreement, which was signed between the two countries in 2011, has not been ratified by both Houses of Parliament. As per the provisions of the Bill, India will exchange 111 enclaves, measuring 17,160 acres, with Bangladesh and receive 51 enclaves, covering 7,110 acres. Almost 51,000 people reside in these enclaves. The territories involved are in Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Tripura. The panel said that the difficulties faced by people living in the enclaves of both the countries would come to an end once the pact comes into force. It has asked the government to keep a blueprint ready for the enclaves that are to be handed over to Bangladesh so that development work could start after the pact is ratified.
The territories involved are in Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Tripura. The panel said that the difficulties faced by people living in the enclaves of both the countries would come to an end once the pact comes into force. It has asked the government to keep a blueprint ready for the enclaves that are to be handed over to Bangladesh so that development work could start after the pact is ratified.
The LBA was signed on May 16, 1974, soon after Bangladesh got independence, to find a solution to the complex nature of border demarcation. While the pact was ratified by Bangladesh government in 1974, the pact was not ratified by India as it involved cession of territory. A modest demographic change in both the countries is expected to take place after the pact comes into force, the panel said.
“Not only would some Indian citizens return to the mainland from previously held enclaves but a number of currently Bangladeshi nationals would also be given Indian citizenship after the area is ceded to India,” it said. The committee said the law-and-order machinery in these areas should be suitably augmented in consultation with the West Bengal government and that a mechanism should be in place to check the “bonafides” of Bangladeshi residents who will be extended Indian citizenship.