GUWAHATI, May 24 � With both the Houses of Parliament clearing the decks, the Government of India will soon start the process of implementing the land swap deal with Bangladesh on the ground. However, no deadline has yet been set for completion of the process and it will be finalized in consultation with Bangladesh.
Highly placed sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) told The Assam Tribune that the Government would expedite the process of completing the fencing along the international border with Bangladesh immediately after completion of implementation of the land swap deal.
Sources revealed that as the first step towards implementation of the deal, surveyors of both India and Bangladesh would properly demarcate the border as per the agreement. Though the surveyors had demarcated the border before the signing of the deal in 2011, some minute details would have to be worked out to settle the existing disputes permanently.
Sources said that the second step would be a headcount of the people in the enclaves. As per the deal, 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh covering an area of 17,160 acres of land would go to Bangladesh, while 51 Bangladeshi enclaves covering an area of 7,110 acres would come to India. A headcount was carried out jointly by the governments of India and Bangladesh in 2011 and it was found that around 51,000 people were living in the enclaves. Around 300 families living in the Indian enclaves in Bangladesh had expressed their desire to come over to India at the time of implementation of the deal.
Sources, however, said that as more than four years have passed since the headcount had been carried out, a fresh headcount would be conducted at the time of implementation of the deal. All those living in the enclaves would be given the option of deciding whether they would like to change their nationality of they would like to leave the land where they have been living for years. However, sources asserted that Assam would not face any extra burden of population as the enclaves are located in West Bengal.
Meanwhile, MHA sources said that the Government would now be able to complete the process of construction of fencing along the international border. Sources pointed out that the fencing could not be constructed in the disputed areas but after the finalization of the border, it would be possible to complete the fencing.
Sources also admitted that the process of fencing the international border in Meghalaya slowed down because of the slow progress of land acquisition. The Centre has already taken up the matter with the Government of Meghalaya so that the land acquisition process can be expedited, sources added.