Bangladesh

Rajya Sabha unanimously passes India-Bangladesh land boundary act

May 07, 2015 06:54 PM
BSF female Contables patrolling India-Bangladesh border

NEW DELHI: In a historic step, members in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday buried their sharp ideological divide - from Shiv Sena to CPM - to unanimously give effect to the Land Boundary Agreement signed between India and Bangladesh in 1974 for exchange of enclaves. 

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj won the hearts of the entire opposition by crediting Manmohan Singh government for putting in the hard work. "Manmohan Singh is the one who started the whole thing. I have merely completed the task," she said, thanking the former PM who was present in the House. She pointed out that the bill is exactly the same - to the last comma and full stop - as was presented by UPA in Parliament in December 2013. "It's a win-win-win situation for everyone," she said, ascribing the quote to leader of opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad. Calling the passage of the bill "historic", Swaraj said it would take India-Bangladesh relations to a new high by settling the 41-year border issue. 

Azad said, "Swaraj was truthful and admitted BJP was opposed to it. Good that with change in chair (from opposition to treasury) there has been change of heart. If you continue to bring bills like this without any change, we will cooperate and get it passed." 



The bill, passed by support of 180 members, aims at giving effect to the acquiring of territories by India and transfer of territories to Bangladesh through retaining of adverse possession and exchange of enclaves in accordance with the 1974 agreement. It will be taken up in Lok Sabha on Thursday. 

Swaraj also set at rest apprehensions of two members - Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) and Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP) - about shrinking boundary of India and the fate of people who will shift from India to Bangladesh and vice-versa. She said India is getting 510 acres and 10,000 acres of enclaves that the country is supposed to have lost is 'notional' since they are deep inside Bangladesh. She also said there will be no physical transfer of people. "It is optional. We have allotted Rs 3008 crore out of which Rs 2234 crore is variable component. We have provided for 35,000 people coming to India. Those who are in India will be given Indian citizenship and those in Bangladesh will become citizens there. Choice is entirely theirs," she said. 

Swaraj set the ball rolling giving a succinct background of the 41-year-old agreement signed by Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and its tumultuous journey. She admitted that her own party BJP, Asom Gana Parishad and Trinamool Congress were opposed to the bill because it was felt that interests of Assam were not taken care of. 

She said when NDA came to power, the bill was referred to the standing committee which gave its report in December last year. She said at that point it was brought to the government's notice that even Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi was opposed to the agreement. "I briefed PM and said we can leave out Assam and renegotiate the agreement. At least 95% of the agreement will be implemented. He agreed. I moved a cabinet note to that effect," Swaraj said. Later, she said, during consultation with political parties the general view was that even Assam should be included. "Even Tarun Gogoi wrote to PM and me that he was not opposed to the agreement. PM told me to withdraw the earlier cabinet note that had excluded Assam. The bill was cleared by cabinet last night. Not a word has changed from what UPA had tabled," she said. Few superficial changes, she jokingly pointed out, are related to the year of the passage of the bill, numbering of the amendment bill and name of the minister. 

Veteran Congress leader Karan Singh, the sole survivor of Indira Gandhi's cabinet, said, "The bill that was brought is the bill that was required. It is better late than never. Hope someday land dispute with China also gets sorted out." 

Azad said, "Swaraj was truthful and admitted BJP was opposed to it. Good that with change in chair (from opposition to treasury) there has change of heart. If you continue to bring bills like this without any change, we will cooperate and get it passed." Sharad Yadav (JDU) said passage of bill will partially fulfil Rammanohar Lohia's dream of confederation of South East Asian nations. Ritabrata B been anerjee (CPM) said coming from a family of refugees, he can understand what such people have been going through on both sides. "The winner today is humanity," he said.

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