SONAMURA (TRIPURA): After days of uncertainty, around 3,000 villagers, who live in between the Bangladesh border and the barbed wire fence India has erected, have started getting food grains and other essentials from the authorities in Tripura.
The March 24 lockdown imposed on to break the chain of coronavirus transmission came as a bolt from the blue for these residents of 30 odd villages as the border gates closed abruptly at midnight, shutting them out from the rest of the country.
Now, fair price shop owners are carrying ration materials to the gates of the fencing for distribution among the villagers, Sonamura Sub-divisional Magistrate Subrata Majumder said on Thursday.
"Eleven ration shops cover all the border villages which fall on the other side of the fencing. The government would bear the cost of transporting the materials. When the BSF is cooperating with us, it is not very hard to supply rations to the villagers," Majumder said.
The order was issued on Tuesday and distribution of ration materials started from Wednesday, he said.
Selim Khan, a resident of Nabadeep Chandra Nagar village that falls on the other side of the fence, said they are getting rations but those materials are not sufficient for survival.
"We also need other essential items such as edible oil, spices, sanitizer and soaps.
Some people also require clothes," Khan said.
Majumder said volunteers of the Red Cross Society were engaged to talk to the villagers and make a list of their requirements.
"The volunteers would buy the materials from local markets and supply them to the villagers since they are not allowed to cross the gate," the Sonamura sub-divisional magistrate added.
Sonamura sub-division is in Sipahijala district of Tripura.
India has raised barbed wire fences across its 4,096- km border with Bangladesh, 150 metres ahead of the zero line, in accordance with the 1971 Indira-Mujib pact.
People of villages such as Nabadeep Chandra Nagar and Kalikrishna Nagar, who were stranded between the fence and the international border, had alleged that there were little food left at home, and no monetary aid or medical assistance.
Some of them entered Bangladesh to buy essentials, and sell poultry and agricultural produce.
The sub-divisional magistrate, however, insisted that people living on the other side of the fence visit Bangladesh often to buy and sell items, and that there is nothing new about it.
BSF official said certain guidelines have been issued to the paramilitary force as part of the efforts to contain the spread of COVID- 19.
A local panchayat had claimed that the villagers had been told to come to the mainland but they refused saying there would no one to look after their houses, land, poultry and cattle if they move to this side of the border.