With the field survey in the Indian and Bangladeshi enclaves ending on Thursday, not a single enclave dweller has expressed willingness to go to Bangladesh. On the other hand, at least 1,027 residents of Indian enclaves in Bangladesh have sought to settle in India.
As per the land swap deal between the two countries, India will transfer 111 enclaves to Bangladesh, while Bangladesh will transfer 51 enclaves to India. The 2011 census listed the population in the 111 enclaves as 37,369, and 14,215 in the 51 enclaves.
“The field survey is done and nobody from here has expressed interest in returning to Bangladesh,” said Krishnava Ghosh, a sub-divisional officer from Cooch Behar.
While Cooch Behar MP Renuka Sinha said about 15,000 enclave dwellers were earlier expected to return to India, the actual number is only 1,027.
Sources alleged that enclave dwellers in Bangladesh had been threatened and warned not to return to India. “It will be a loss of face for the Bangladesh administration if there is a mass exodus, which is why they are forcing people to stay back,” claimed Debabrata Chaki, advisor, Indian Enclave United Council.
“I have also heard that people were forced to put their thumb impressions and made to stay back. I talked to people earlier, and many feared that they may lose their land. But they still wanted to return to India,” said Sinha.
Sinha said an amount of Rs 4.5 lakh per head was earlier determined as the rehabilitation package. “We were not supposed to divulge the figure because the Bangladeshi administration would have felt that we wanted to entice people to return. The figure, however, included food and shelter expenses,” she said, adding that this may now be revised.
The exchange of enclaves is set to begin on July 31.
Seventy-five teams, comprising two members each — one Indian and one Bangladeshi — were assigned the responsibility of the joint field survey.