Assam included in Bill for land swap with Bangladesh

Faced with opposition from the Assam Chief Minister and the Congress in Parliament as well as unhappiness from the Hasina government in Dhaka, the Centre has reversed its decision on excluding Assam from the purview of its Bill on exchanging land with Bangladesh.

  • The Constitution (119th Amendment) Bill, 2013, which will allow the operationalisation of the 1974 India- Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement, was cleared by the Cabinet recently. However, the cabinet had de-linked Assam from the agreement.
  • The envisaged exchange of land includes enclaves and adverse possessions from West Bengal, Meghalaya, Tripura and Assam.

About the land swap deal:

The swap will involve handing over 17,000 acres of land to Bangladesh in return for 7,000 acres in 111 enclaves in West Bengal, Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya, and was first decided under the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) between India and Bangladesh, but never ratified by Parliament.

  • It will require an amendment to the Constitution (the 119th amendment) ratified by both Houses of Parliament with a two-thirds majority.
  • The deal relates to demarcation of boundary under the Land Boundary Agreement between the two countries.
  • India and Bangladesh have been negotiating the land swap for years to resolve a long-running border conflict.

How will it affect the existing citizens:

The number of people to be involved in the whole swap is approximately 52,000, of which about 15,000 are on the Indian side of the border.

  • Under this intended agreement, the enclave residents could continue to reside at their present location or move to the country of their choice.
  • A number of Indian nationals living in Indian enclaves in Bangladesh territory are going to be adversely affected as they would lose their claim to Indian citizenship.
  • Now, it becomes the responsibilities of the governments of India and Bangladesh to ensure that there is no “discrimination” against them.

Opposition:

  • Some people have been opposing the deal on the ground that Assam will stand to lose more territory as compared to Bangladesh in the exchange of enclaves.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, BS.

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