Diptiman Sengupta, 44, the chief coordinator of the Bharat-Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Coordination Committee (BBEECC), is the undisputed leader of the ‘stateless’ enclave dwellers on the Indo-Bangla border. Sitting in the sprawling verandah of his old-fashioned house in Cooch Behar, Mr. Sengupta told Suvojit Bagchi of The Hindu about his apprehensions following the President’s assent to the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) Bill recently passed by the Indian Parliament.
How did you get involved with this 67-year-old issue, as you are only 44?
It was my father,0 Dipak Sengupta, a Forward Bloc MLA, who founded the BBEECC in 1994. Ours is a political family and related to Dinesh Gupta, the freedom fighter and father was involved with Liberation Movement in Goa and anti-monarchy campaign in Cooch Behar. So when the Committee was formed I naturally got involved and when my father asked me to work full time, I left the job and eventually got massive support from our BBEECC counterpart in Bangladesh.
The LBA Bill was passed by Parliament and perhaps it is a matter of time before the President gives his assent. But you still are apprehensive…why?
We are no more worried about the LBA but (about) the process to be followed after the presidential assent. Like, we have a list of enclave dwellers on both Indian and Bangladeshi enclaves on either side of the border and we have to make sure that new names are not encouraged in that list. Of course those born after July 17, 2011, will have to be accommodated but then they cannot be more than five years old and we have to ensure that outsiders are not entertained.
Why July 17, 2011?
Between 14-17 July, 2011, an Indian and a Bangladeshi team jointly surveyed the Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and Bangladeshi enclaves in India.
What was population in the enclaves at that point?
In 51 Bangladeshi enclaves on Indian soil the population was 14,215 and in 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh it would be 37,369 and altogether it was little over 51,000.
But then are a series of other apprehensions related to developmental fund?
Yes. Huge money will be flowing in and the usual money-related problems will follow. Rs. 30 lakh has already been announced as compensation for each acre of acquired land within enclaves for developmental projects.
The prices of land will go up and urban promoters will acquire enclave land.
That may not be an immediate possibility as farmers are not too keen on selling land. But there are apprehensions about the ideal nature of the developments for the poorest of the poor people.
What should be the ideal way to move forward with developmental plans in enclaves?
Ideally, it should be a people-centric policy, to develop roads, electricity and clean water followed by regularisation of citizenship and access to food, health care and education. It is not an easy process but in the past the district administration has cooperated in many ways, otherwise we could not have admitted Jihad’s mother Asma Bibi in the government hospital. (See the story.)
There is another apprehension that many living in Indian enclaves in Bangladesh may arrive from Cooch Behar, especially the ones who are poor?
I do not think so. I think less than 1,0000people will come or may be 2,000 but it cannot be in thousands as some people are saying.
Some of your critics have said that BBEECC has an interest in the developmental projects.
It is gossip, not criticism. The ‘liberation’ of enclave would have taken place many moons ago if these intellectuals, who have hardly visited the enclaves, had not blocked it for personal interests. As far as developmental fund is concerned we can say that BBEECC will cease to exist the day the enclaves are properly functional and thus we will not intervene in government’s developmental projects and funds in the enclave.
Will you contest in the next Assembly poll in 2016?