Despite bitter acrimony over the municipal polls, Prime Minister Nardenra Modi’s visit to West Bengal and his scheduled meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee comes in a positive environment, created over the land swap amendment bill that was unanimously passed in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. However, there are a lot many intricate aspects that need to be addressed and they will come up when Modi and Mamata meet on Saturday in Kolkata.
The Central government has accepted the West Bengal government’s rehabilitation package in relation to the land swap deal – worth a total of Rs 3008 crore. The top government of India officials who had gone through the rehabilitation package, however, pointed out the West Bengal government has given a very inflated figure of migration of population into the Indian side form territory that will be going to Bangladesh after the LBA is implemented. The proposal for the rehabilitation package was submitted to the centre by Bengal government in December, 2014 and a package of more than Rs 3000 crore was sought. The proposed package was divided into two components –variable and fixed.
According to the state government’s estimates, the population that might seek transfer to the Indian side is estimated at 37,000 (the total population living in Indian Enclaves in Bangladesh) on an upper scale while the actual door to door surveys conducted by officials of both Bangladesh and India had shown that the population that want to migrate to the Indian side of territory is about 750 plus. There is a huge gap between the projected migration figure of 37,000 population and 750.
However, the rehab package, therefore, suggested two components – one variable and the other constant. As per the variable estimate the money allotted for rehabilitation of 37,000 population has been pegged at Rs 2200 crore. The rehab package also projects the setting up of as many as 67 four storied housing blocks in Coochbehar district. But central government officials describe this estimate as “absurd.”
When contacted, TMC MP Dr. Sugata Bose told the Indian Express, “the two components are there in the package. The fixed component of around Rs 800 would be used to develop infrastructure for the people coming to India from Indian enclaves. While, the variable component worth Rs 2200 crore would be used to provide rehabilitation to the people migrating here.”
A more rational estimate is said to be based on the actual ground survey.In the fixed component of the rehabilitation package, a major chunk of the money – Rs 800 crore –is earmarked for a bridge to be set up on river Teesta. The project proposal of building a bridge connecting Mekhliganj and Haldibari is worth Rs 720 crore while rest of the amount, around Rs 80 crore would be used to construct Hospital, health centres, government offices and roads, said a highly placed source in Bengal government.
Significantly, the Hindus living in Indian enclaves wanted to come to India post ratification of the LBA. According the Indo-Bangla enclave exchange committee, that conducted a survey, submitted a list to the government stating around 149 families want Indian citizenship. Golam Mostafa, general secretary of the Indo-Bangla Enclave Exchange Committee (Bangladesh chapter) said, “A recent survey conducted by us reveals that 149 families — one Muslim family and the rest Hindus — want to migrate to India from the enclaves in Bangladesh. So during implementation of LBA, around 750 people would migrate to India from enclaves in Bangladesh.”
In 2011, a process was initiated by both the nations to count heads in Indian and Bangladeshi enclaves. In 162 enclaves in both the countries, the census like survey revealed that there are 15,000 people living in 51 Bangladeshi enclaves (7,000 acres) in Indian territory and 37000 people living in 111 Indian enclaves (about 17,000 acres) in Bangladesh territory. Of these 15000 people, there are at least 6500 Hindus living in Bangladeshi enclaves in India, while there are around 1800 Hindus living in Indian enclaves in Bangladeshi. Placing the figures, a senior official of central government argued that even if all Hindus come to India from Indian enclaves in Bangladesh, the count of migrants would not cross 3000 people.