Rehab, safety niggles for Bangladesh land swap

Rehab, safety niggles for Bangladesh land swap

By: || Updated: 02 Dec 2014 02:28 AM
New Delhi: Compensation for new citizens’ rehabilitation and security concerns are the key niggles India will need to iron out before ratifying a 40-year-old land swap pact with Bangladesh, a report by a Parliament panel has suggested.




The Mamata Banerjee government in Bengal may have conditionally withdrawn its opposition to the pact but is yet to approve a compensation package proposed by New Delhi, says the report by the Parliament standing committee for external affairs.


Under the Land Boundary Agreement, India and Bangladesh are to swap enclaves and other territory that legally belong to them but are either embedded deep within the other country or are administratively controlled by the neighbour.


India’s failure to ratify the pact, inked in 1974 soon after Bangladesh’s independence, has emerged as a key source of friction between New Delhi and Dhaka. Especially so since 2011, when the two nations signed a document detailing the exact territories to be swapped.


Over the past few days, Mamata’s Trinamul Congress has signalled its willingness to drop its opposition to the pact — a key reason holding up the ratification — if New Delhi agrees to pay for the rehabilitation of the new citizens Bengal will have to absorb.


But the report by the House panel, headed by Congress member and former UN diplomat Shashi Tharoor, quotes foreign secretary Sujatha Singh as saying that Bengal is yet to accept the compensation package proposed by the Centre. The committee handed the report to the Lok Sabha today.


Former foreign minister S.M. Krishna had, at a meeting with Mamata on May 3, 2012, first discussed a “suitable compensation package”, Singh had told the House panel.


On June 11, 2012, senior foreign office and home ministry officials met their Bengal counterparts in Calcutta and reached an “in-principle arrangement” on the central assistance for rehabilitation.


Singh detailed how New Delhi planned to compensate Bengal by considering the maximum number of people who, according to the Bengal government, might need rehabilitation.


But the “government of West Bengal is yet to confirm the approval of this proposed package by the chief minister”, Singh told the House panel on October 29. Foreign ministry officials confirmed that the situation hadn’t changed yet.


The House panel report asks the foreign office and the Bengal government to quickly “arrive at a consensus on the… rehabilitation package”. Trinamul MP Sugata Bose is a member of the panel.


The compensation isn’t the only challenge the Modi government is concerned about.


Home secretary Anil Goswami told the committee that local police would be asked to keep a close watch on those who return to Bengal from the Indian enclaves handed over to Bangladesh.


When they return, Goswami told the panel, the Centre would record their biometric details.


“Then, in close cooperation and consultation with the government of West Bengal, they will be taken to the respective places where they are proposed to be settled,” Goswami said.


“And there we will keep a close watch for some time.”


Your Questions


What is the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA)?


A pact inked by India and Bangladesh in 1974 to iron out discrepancies in their border

demarcation dating back to the 1947 Partition based on the Radcliffe Line. In 2011, India and Bangladesh signed a protocol identifying the territories to be exchanged. But

India is yet to ratify the LBA


What does ratification involve?


A constitutional amendment to legalise territorial changes, followed by a cabinet decision


Is the final land swap only about enclaves?


Mostly, but not entirely. India and Bangladesh will swap enclaves and “adverse possessions” — territory that are contiguous with their borders (unlike the enclaves) but are not held by the legal owner



How will the LBA affect Bengal’s geography?


Legally, Bengal’s area will reduce. But administratively, it will increase


What does that mean?


Mamata Banerjee will have 7,110 acres of additional territory to govern once the LBA is ratified and the two nations exchange “diplomatic letters” confirming the ratification


How is that a reduced legal area?


Here’s how. First: the loss of legal area.


Bengal’s legal area includes 111 enclaves with “Indian citizens” embedded deepinside Bangladesh territory that the Bengal government cannot administer.


This area — 17,160.63 acres — will go to Bangladesh. Instead, 7,110.02 acres worth of Bangladeshi enclaves embedded inside Bengal will now legally become a part of the state. Right now, this territory — although within Bengal’s boundaries — cannot legally be governed by the Bengal government.


So effectively, Bengal’s “legal area” will reduce by 10,050.61 acres because of the enclave switch— the difference in areas of the enclaves swapped.


But Bengal is “legally” also gaining a little area because of the “adverse possessions”. India will receive 2,777.038 acres of land and hand over 2,267.682 acres to Bangladesh

— a “legal” gain of 509.356 acres.


In other words, Bengal’s net loss of “legal” area will be 9541.254 acres (the gain from adverse possessions deducted from the larger loss fromthe enclave swap)


How exactly will the administrative area increase?


Bengal (and India) already holds administrative control of the “adverse possessions” area that it will legally gain from the ratification. On the other hand, it does not have administrative control of either the Indian enclaves in Bangladesh or the Bangladeshi enclaves in India.


After the ratification, Bengal will gain full administrative access to the 7111.02 acres worth of enclaves that will now belong to India and are embedded

within the state’s territory.

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