Friday, 5 December 2014

Why I Support Indo-Bangla Land Boundary Agreement?

The Indo-Bangla Land Boundary Agreement is a mere formality. But this formality will end virtual statelessness of more than 51 thousand people.

According to a report, 37,334 Indians are residing in 111 enclaves in Bangladesh that spread over 17,000 acres and 14,215 Bangladeshi people are residing in 51 enclaves in India that spread over 7,110 acres. As these 51,549 people are living in land-locked parcels of land situated within another country they can not exercise and avail any of the rights and amenities which citizens are provided with by the constitution and laws of their respective countries. They are virtually stateless people.

The Land Boundary Agreement was first signed by Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1974 stipulated that both countries would exchange the enclaves of land that both countries had within each other's territory. India even agreed to forgo compensation for land that would be transferred to Bangladesh. India would lose about 40 square kilometres of land. But it is a matter of formality since there is no sensible ways to use these lands as they sit in small enclaves within another country.

As per the agreement, people living in the enclaves would be given a choice either to go to their country or to stay where they were living by becoming the citizens of that country. It is reported that no significant exchange of population would be involved as people reportedly wanted to stay where they were living for generations.

Bangladesh parliament ratified the agreement but India did not. When, after decades, the Manmohan Singh government attempted to move the constitutional amendment bill required for ratification of the agreement in parliament in 2013, it was strongly opposed by BJP and regional parties like TMC and AGP.

But now that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs tabled its report in which it recommended that the constitution amendement bill be moved to end the boundary issue between the two nations and the Prime Minister also announced his intention to go ahead with the bill, I hope, it will be passed and these 51 thousand odd stateless people will get some relief.

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