DHUBRI, Sept 6 - For those who believe that the Indo-Bangla Land Boundary Agreement has settled the land issues of those residing on the border, one can well have a rethink!
For, hundreds of villagers on the Indian side continue to bear the brunt of toiling on the �wrong side of the fence� on the Indo-Bangla border.
Agrarian families residing in Lakhi Mari village (Sonahat Gate number 23) located nearly 38 kilometres from the Dhubri town, are one such lot who still had to cross over the fence to earn their living and that too in their own paddy fields. These villagers, mostly farmers, had to cross over the border fencing guarded by the Border Security Force (BSF) to work in their own paddy fields that lie on the other side of the fence.
It is ironic that Indian farmers have to cross the international fence each day (only on the strength of a pass issued by the BSF with certain conditions) to work in their own paddy fields to which, however, a Bangladeshi national has a direct access.
�The international area (minimum 150 metres from the fence) is where we take our lunch and we can only return to our homes on the Indian side during the specified time. There is no fencing from the Bangladesh end and they have direct access to our fields and crop,� said 60-year-old Moinuddin Sheikh, who owns five bighas of land on the other side of the fence. He also rued that even in the event of a family emergency, they are not allowed to get back to their homes.
�It is only during the specified time that we are allowed to return to our homes from the paddy fields that stand demarcated on the other side of the fence. We have no choice,� said Matiur Rahman, another villager, while talking to this reporter.
Villagers also recalled incidents when unscrupulous elements from Bangladesh had stolen their entire produce and they were left with nothing. �Our paddy fields on the other side of the barbed fence are the only source of income. We are paying taxes to India, but are working across the border,� said Rahimuddin Ahmed, whose family has been staying in the locality since early 1950s.
They are now pinning hopes that the Indo-Border trade centre would become functional soon and bring employment avenues for the people living in the border areas. �We will only leave our land if adequate compensation is paid and a source of earnings is provided,� a section of the villagers opined.
A BSF official, requesting anonymity, said that the cards are issued to check incidents of smuggling and also the movement of unscrupulous elements along the border. �By issuing the cards we can at least keep a tab on the villagers. We cannot comment on the policy matters. This is how it has been going on,� the official said.