NEW DELHI: From August 1, there will be over 16000 new Indian citizens, as a long-standing cartographic oddity is erased from maps, with India and Bangladesh absorbing extra-territorial enclaves.
With the land swap, both countries would be nearing the finish line to implement the 1974 Indira-Mujib accord, based on the 2011 protocol signed by Manmohan Singh and Sheikh Hasina. The visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June to Dhaka provided the fillip to get the stalled pact of the ground, with Indian parliament unanimously approving the land boundary agreement.
The 10-day joint survey conducted in early July recorded that 979 persons in 222 families want to migrate to India from the Indian enclaves in Bangladesh. Out of the 222 families who have decided to leave for India, 146 are Hindus.
However, not even one of the residents of 111 Bangladeshi enclaves in India have opted to move to Bangladesh.
This means that from Saturday, 15134 residents of Bangladeshi enclaves, as well as 979 who have chosen to migrate, will be counted as official citizens of India – though all the relevant documents will be issued only in the coming months.
Bangladesh will have double the number of new citizen – 39,544 in 51 Indian enclaves, as per the latest survey.
The migration of the 222 families to India will only take place in the month of November, after the modalities of their movement and compensation package is worked out by the centre and the state government.
The last joint border group meeting took place in Dhaka on July 23, where officials also deliberated of 32 cases where “undue pressure” was being imposed on residents to move. It was decided that inquiry would be conducted by Cooch Behar district magistrate and the concerned deputy commissioner in Bangladesh. “A final decision will be taken based on the options after that,” said sources.
Meanwhile, officials are working on the final movement from Bangladesh to India of 979 enclave residents, which include transport, temporary rehabilitation in Cooch Behar, notification of nationality, as well as issuing other documents.
Incidentally to avoid the “undue pressure”, both countries had banned any purchase and sale of land in the enclaves till July 31. This means that that the 979 residents will only have three months to dispose off their immovable assets, convert it into cash and then try to repatriate the money to India, before the deadline of population exchange on November 30.
The last part, repatriation of money, may be the most difficult, with Bangladeshi norms making it extremely difficult to make cash transfers outside the country. For their rehabilitation, centre has already promised a package of Rs Rs. 3,048 crore to the West Bengal government.
The next joint border working group meeting is likely to take place in October, just before the migration takes place.
Sources said that there had been some challenges during the survey, when enumerators came across examples of different members of families exercising different options.
“As long as they are adults, they can go wherever they want. We even had an example of a wife wanting to go to India and husband remaining in Bangladesh,” said the source.
With residents free to change their mind during the survey, some persons “took advantage of this flexibility and flip-flopped a few times”.
During the survey period, 85 observers draws from various Indian central and state department weaved to-and-fro across the enclaves. “They did not alert us to any instance of malpractice or undue pressure on the residents to exercise their option one way or another,” said sources.
The final cut-off date for completion of all modalities, including ground demarcation will be June 30, 2016.