Indo-Bangla Border: 70k People in 'No Man's Land' Keep IB Porous
ZERO POINT: Not covered by the historic Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh, about 260 Indian villages with a total of 70,000 residents which lie in the 'no man's land' between the two countries continue to pose a vexed challenge for troops looking to secure the border against smuggling and influx of fake currency.
While the LBA provides for the activation of the 1974 India-Bangladesh agreement for exchange of 161 border enclaves adversely-held by the the two neighbours, an exact solution to the vexed status of these villages situated just ahead of the International Border (IB) fence remains hanging fire.
"There are villages which are located ahead of the border fence and are different from the areas which are covered under the LBA. Shifting these villages inside the IB will be very useful. We have taken up the matter a number of times with the authorities but there has been no progress.
"The population living in these villages is vulnerable to a number of unlawful acts and attempts from the other side," BSF Inspector General (South Bengal Frontier), Sandeep Salunke, said at his headquarters in Kolkata.
BSF troops deployed along the 'first main pillar' of the Indo-Bangladesh border at Panitar here showed PTI how the meandering IB leads to a unique situation wherein two adjoining houses, separated by a mere 10-metres between them, come under the jurisdiction of either country.
Along this 4,096-km long border, BSF officials say, there are about 260 villages with about 70,000 men, women and children living in them.
In the South Bengal corridor alone -- comprising the border crime prone areas of North 24 and South 24 Parganas, Nadia, Murshidabad and Malda districts -- there are 54 such villages with a population of 30,074 living in 4,749 houses.
"This is like living on no man's land. The problem is historic and border-guarding troops face some unique challenges for which we have deployed dynamic strategies like maintaining photographic registers and regularly identifying and updating data to know who is new to the area," BSF Commanding Officer Ratnesh Kumar said after undertaking a routine tour of Chakpanitar village.
IG Salunke said that as the number of these villages is "not very big", a lasting solution for effective border management would be to bring them inside the border fence.
"This has been our repeated request, but there has been no solution... The people who live in these villages do not want to shift elsewhere as they have their life-long investments here. Incidents of smuggling and crime are serious concerns in these areas," he said.
BSF troops and officers say they detect several instances every day of smuggling of basic food items, cigarettes and household goods in these areas with the women and children living in these villages made to act as couriers for such activities.