National

Assam included in Bill for land swap with Bangladesh

Centre reverses decision after Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi's opposition.

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

The Bill, a constitutional amendment (119th Constitutional Amendment act of 2013) which will allow the operationalisation of the 1974 India-Bangladesh Land Boundary agreement, was cleared by the Cabinet, including enclaves and “adverse possessions” from West Bengal, Meghalaya, Tripura and Assam, Director of the Press Information Bureau Frank Noronha told The Hindu.

An earlier plan by the government to exclude Assam from the land swap arrangement because of fierce resistance from the BJP’s Assam unit ahead of state elections this year, has now been shelved. Once it is cleared in parliament, the bill would pave the way for the historic agreement being ratified by India at a formal signing ceremony expected to take place when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Dhaka in June.

On Tuesday, the government’s floor managers sought to pin the blame on excluding Assam on Mr. Gogoi, stating that he was against the swap. This was rejected by Congress spokesman Gaurav Gogoi who said the party’s consistent position in the Assembly has been in favour of swapping 268 acres in lieu of 714 acres currently with Bangladesh.

Once Parliament clears the Bill, it would pave the way for the historic agreement being ratified by India at a formal signing ceremony expected to take place when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Dhaka in June. After the Cabinet clearance, the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) met to slot the Bill for consideration and passage in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

At the meeting, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj informed BAC members of the government’s decision to include Assam as was in the original agreement.

A meeting of the BAC last Thursday had put off scheduling the Bill in the face of opposition to Assam’s exclusion.

After the Cabinet clearance , the business advisory committee (BAC) met to clear tabling the bill on Wednesday in the Rajya Sabha. Sources said that at the meeting, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj informed BAC members of the government’s decision to include Assam as is in the original agreement. An earlier meeting of the BAC on Thursday had put off scheduling the bill, because many opposition parties demanded the inclusion of Assam. CPI MP D. Raja welcomed the government’s decision to bring consensus on the bill by reversing it’s stand. “At a time the government is being attacked on several domestic policies, it would have been very unfortunate if it failed to carry political parties on foreign policy issues as well,” he told The Hindu.

Decision on Assam hailed

Welcoming the decision to include Assam in the Bill for land exchange with Bangladesh, Communist Party of India member in the Rajya Sabha D. Raja said: “At a time [when] the government is being attacked on several domestic policies, it would have been very unfortunate if it failed to carry political parties [along] on foreign policy issues as well.”

Sealing porous border

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week , Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had urged him to put aside political considerations and include Assam in the agreement for a permanent solution to the outstanding issue between both issues, adding the "Construction of border fencing will also prevent illegal infiltration of foreigners and subversive elements, smuggling, etc. by sealing the porous border.” The Hindu had also reported on the Bangladeshi government’s unease over the NDA’s proposed move to exclude Assam. In an interview to The Hindu in Dhaka, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam had indicated that Bangladesh had not been taken into confidence on any changes, and had not received formal intimation from India.

According the agreement, India is to receive 2,777.038 acres of land and to transfer 2267.682 acres to Bangladesh, much of which has already been effected on the ground already.



1974

  • May 16: India-Bangladesh Agreement inked, not ratified
  • India has 111 enclaves within Bangaldesh (70 square km)
  • Bangladesh has 51 enclaves in India (28 square km)
  • Most enclaves are in Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Tripura.

2011

  • September 6: Bangladesh and India sign protocol to pact

2013

  • December 18: The Constitution (119th Amendment) Bill, 2013, introduced in Rajya Sabha
  • Bill amends the First Schedule of the Constitution that defines the area of each State, Union Territory

2015

  • April 29: Cabinet clears the revised land boundary agreement delinking Assam.
  • Centre likely to introduce revised Bill in Parliament next week


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Printable version | May 25, 2020 5:08:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/indiabangladesh-land-deal-centre-includes-assam-in-its-bill/article7173440.ece

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