Kolkata

Erstwhile enclave residents refuse to move into Bengal govt. flats

Protest at Enclave Settlement camp at Haldibari

Protest at Enclave Settlement camp at Haldibari  

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Simmering discontent over lack of monetary compensation and jobs

Almost four half years after the historic exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh, hundreds of people staying at the Haldibari enclave settlement camp in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district erupted in protest on Thursday. Holding posters and placards, men and women marched inside the camp demanding monetary compensation, jobs and a cattleshed.

What triggered the protests was handing over provisional certificates of residential flats to 20 families on November 18 by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at an event in Cooch Behar. The next day, the remaining 76 families were scheduled to collect certificates from the local district authorities, which they declined.

After the exchange of enclaves under the historic Land Boundary Agreement in 2015, more than 900 persons from over 200 families staying inside the Indian enclaves located deep in Bangladesh territory decided to come to India. These families have been staying at Haldibari, Mekhilganj and Dinhata camps since November 2015.

Haldibari is the biggest of the three with 96 families and over 500 people.

“We will not collect the keys till our demands are met. The 20 families who met the Chief Minister have realised their mistake and joined our protest today,” Anna Prasad Roy, a protester said.

Earlier this year, a representative of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) visited the camps and submitted a report to the Commission. The representative told The Hindu: “There has been a difference between what they feel they were promised and what has been offered. What is being offered we think is for their good but as it happens during all planning they were not consulted in the process.”

District Magistrate of Cooch Behar Pawan Kadyan has met the families and listened to their grievances. The State government officials involved in rehabilitating the erstwhile enclave dwellers have assured all possible support to them. Each family is being provided an 800 sq. ft. flat and there are adequate number of flats to accommodate everyone, they said. One grievance of the people is that they are tuned to rural lifestyle where cattle rearing is part of their routine. The administration is also looking into it.

It is not only at Haldibari but in the other camps also discontent is brewing. Osman Gani, one of the prominent faces at the Dinhata enclave settlement camp, said the residents had been opposing the idea of moving to flats from the beginning. “After four and half years, we will have to move to another location. Before this for 68 years we lived a life where the State was not there. What the State can do best is leave us where we are staying,” he said.

“There are not more than 200 families and the State could have planned their rehabilitation in a better way. All of them thought that they would get land but at present most of the families do not have job cards under the MGNREGA scheme,” said Kirity Roy, secretary of the rights organisation MASUM, which has made several representation to the State government and the NHRC.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 12:50:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/erstwhile-enclave-residents-refuse-to-move-into-bengal-govt-flats/article30049907.ece

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