West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has agreed to Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s request to acquire 300 acres of land in the state and give it to the Centre for constructing barbed wire fencing along the India-Bangladesh border, officials said Friday.
The move came after the home minister wrote to the chief minister, whose government had been dithering for months over acquiring the land, leading to a delay in construction of a fence along the international border, they said. Singh’s letter to Banerjee, requesting her to acquire and hand over about 300 acres of land, has worked, a Home Ministry official privy to the development said.
The firebrand West Bengal leader enjoys cordial relations with the home minister, who is known to have friends across political parties and acts as an emissary of the Narendra Modi government whenever necessary. With an agreement on handing over the land, the long-delayed construction of the fencing in the West Bengal sector of the India-Bangladesh border is expected to start soon, the official said.
India shares a 4,096-km border with Bangladesh. Of this, 2,216 km falls in West Bengal. The border in the state is infamous for a variety of reasons such as illegal immigration and smuggling of cattle and narcotics. The home minister had sent similar letters to the chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura and Bihar, which helped resolve pending issues related to the acquisition of land in the states, the official said.
The home minister on Friday also reviewed the progress of various projects being undertaken along the borders with China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar. During the meeting, it was conveyed to Singh that various projects got delayed due to the non-availability of environment clearances from state governments.
The home minister asked the officials present to pursue the matter with the concerned governments. Singh also reviewed the progress of ongoing projects being executed by the Land Ports Authority of India and the border management division under the Home Ministry.
There was very good progress and Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) at five border crossing points out of seven approved projects have been completed, an official statement said. Terminals for smooth movement of goods and people at ICP Raxaul and ICP Jogbani on the India-Nepal border, ICP Petrapole and ICP Agartala on the India-Bangladesh border and ICP Attari on India–Pakistan border have been made functional.
At each ICP, facilities have been constructed for customs clearance, immigration, warehouses for storage of goods, approach roads and terminal buildings to adequately handle import and export of goods and entry and exit of people. Work on ICP Moreh on the India-Myanmar border and ICP Dawki on India-Bangladesh border is in advanced stage of completion. The total approved expenditure for the seven ICPs is over Rs 700 crore, the statement said.
The home minister also directed officials to take up construction of an additional 13 ICPs — Hili, Jaigaon, Ghojadanga, Mahadipur, Changrabandha, Fulbari, Rupaidiha, Kawrpuichhuah, Panitanki, Sutarkandi, Sunauli, Banbasa and Bhithamore — and the passenger terminal at Petrapole, the statement said.
Projects have been taken up for construction of 18 coastal border outposts (BOPs) in Gujarat and improvement of border floodlighting in Punjab and Rajasthan. Some floating BOPs have also been approved in Gujarat and West Bengal. To improve coastal security, 121 coastal police stations have been operationalised, 30 jetties have been constructed and biometric cards have been issued to 18.5 lakh fishermen.