Border fencing renders Tripura farmers landless

March 25th, 2008 - 4:06 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Agartala, March 25 (IANS) Homes and farmland of over 8,000 families in India’s northeastern state of Tripura have fallen outside the barbed wire fencing being erected along the border with Bangladesh, restricting farmers’ access to their farms. “An all-party team of Tripura earlier met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and central Home Minister Shivraj Patil and apprised them about the serious problems, but the crisis has remained unresolved,” said Chief Minister Manik Sarkar.

“If the fencing was erected on the zero line of the international border, these problems would not have come up, but Bangladesh insisted on putting up the fencing 150 yards away from the actual border,” he added.

India has been erecting barbed wire fencing in most parts of the 4,095-km border with Bangladesh to check trans-border movement of militants, illegal migration and border crimes.

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh government and its border guards the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) have objected to the border fencing at more than 200 places along the border with West Bengal, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Assam.

They said India was building the fence within 150 yards of the border at these sites, violating a 1975 agreement, which prohibits the construction of any defensive structure within 150 yards on either side of the boundary.

On a number of occasions, BDR troopers have fired on border fencing workers to stop the work, leading to tensions between the two sides.

“India has communicated to Bangladesh that in a few places there are markets, mosque, temples, madrasas, drinking water sources, roads and other government and non-government assets within 150 yards of the border, forcing it to make adjustments in the alignment of the fence,” an official said.

As many as 642 km of Tripura’s 856 km border with Bangladesh have been fenced so far and work is now in progress in the remaining areas.

“The state government has sent a Rs.930 million proposal to the central government long back for rehabilitation of the people displaced by fencing while the central government has sanctioned homes for 7,500 families under the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY),” the chief minister told the Tripura assembly while participating in a heated discussion on the issue.

According to the chief minister, scarcity of land has been a problem for constructing homes for the affected people.

Legislators cutting across party lines raised numerous issues about the opening and closing of designated gates on the fenced India-Bangladesh border.

Though there is a clear guideline for the opening and closing of gates, it is reportedly not being implemented by the Border Security Force (BSF), creating problems for Indian farmers to harvest their agricultural lands that are on wrong side of the fence, said a large number of legislators.

Sarkar told the agitated legislators that the chief secretary, the director general of police and district magistrates have been talking to BSF officials to solve the problems.

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