Parliament panel endorses Indo-Bangla land swap deal

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New Delhi, Dec 2: A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi allayed fears over the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) with Bangladesh, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs submitted its report in both the Houses of Parliament endorsing the land swap deal.

The Union Cabinet is now going to take up the 119th Constitution Amendment Bill for consideration most likely on Wednesday evening before bringing it for passage in the Rajya Sabha.

Union Urban Development and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu told newsmen that the standing committee report was tabled today and the government would have to study it.

“Moreover, we have assurance by the former Prime Minister,” Naidu said, hinting that the BJP has the support of the Congress Party. As the LBA is a Constitution Amendment Bill, the government needs the support of two-thirds of MPs. However, with the Congress supporting the Bill, the NDA Government is likely to have a smooth sailing in the Upper House.

“If you do something in the interest of the nation, it is not a U-turn,” Naidu argued, when asked about the change of stand of the BJP.

Under pressure, the BJP had opposed the Bill during its introduction, with the then External Affairs Minister Salman Khursid having a tough time convincing an agitated Opposition about the need to ratify the LBA.

Meanwhile, the 51-page Parliamentary Standing Committee report submitted by Dr Shashi Thaoor in the Lok Sabha and Dr Karan Singh in Rajya Sabha, has confirmed that Assam would not stand to gain any land in the deal, with the State set to lose 268.39 acres of land. The areas the State is going to lose include Thakurani Bari-Kalibari (Baroibari) (Kurigram-Dhubri (193.85 acres) and Pallatthal (Maulvi Bazaar-Karimganj) (74.54 acre).

Under the adverse possession areas to be transferred to Bangladesh India would surrender 2267.68 acres spread over the States of West Bengal, Meghalaya and Assam.

On the other hand, under adverse possession areas to be acquired by India, Bangladesh would surrender 2777.03 acres. The states which would gain include West Bengal, Meghalaya and Tripura.

The MEA informed the panel that the interests of tea and paan planters have been protected while finalising the border between India and Bangladesh in this sector. With regards to demarcation of the Lathitila and Dumabari sector, the line drawn by Radcliffe and actual position on the ground has been followed.

The Parliamentary panel said the protocol has been prepared with full support and concurrence of the governments of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and West Bengal.

“The Committee is of the strong opinion that the Bill is in overall national interest, as it would pave the way for broader bilateral ties with one of our closest neighbours, Bangladesh. Delays in the passage of the Bill have needlessly contributed in the perpetuation of a huge humanitarian crisis” it said.

The Committee would therefore urge the Government to take urgent steps by presenting the Bill to Parliament without any further delay.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has informed that the state governments concerned were closely associated with the process of determination of adverse possession and enclaves. Land records were scrutinised, the wishes of the people in possession of the land were ascertained and land survey and index maps of the adversely held areas were prepared by the state survey departments in their respective areas of the boundary with Bangladesh.

Significantly, the report concluded that a modest demographic change in both countries is expected to take place after this agreement comes into force. Not only would some Indian citizens return to the mainland from the previously held enclaves, but a number of Bangladeshi nationals would also be given Indian citizenship after the area is ceded to India.

The security dimension of the influx of population should be considered seriously by the government.

The Committee, therefore desires that the law and order machinery in the affected area should be suitably augmented in consultation with the State Governments and appropriate method should be arrived at in order to check the bonafides of the Bangladeshi residents, who will be extended Indian citizenship upon incorporation of the territory.

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