The Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on External Affairs on 1 December 2014 tabled its report in Parliament.
In the report, the panel recommended to introduce a bill to give effect to the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) with Bangladesh and end the 67-year old dispute between the two countries.
The Standing Committee headed by Shashi Tharoor of Congress Party and comprising of Trinamool Congress’s Sugata Bose and BJP’s Ananthkumar Hegde and Varun Gandhi as members were unanimous on the point that Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) is in national interest and will pave way for broader ties with Bangladesh.
Recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee
• It asked the government to carry out effective consultations with the concerned State Governments for smooth implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement
• It asked the government to keep a blueprint ready for development of the Bangladeshi enclaves that will be ceded to India
• It also urged the Government to address all issues related to the rehabilitation of the people returning to the Indian Territory
• It asked the Centre to take measures to check the bonafides of the Bangladeshi residents who shall be extended Indian citizenship
• It also asked Government to ensure adequate safeguards for the Indian nationals who will be staying back in Bangladesh after the implementation of the Accord
The recommendation of the Standing Committee comes one day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 30 November 2014 confirmed that Government is serious to introduce the LBA and solve the problem of infiltration.
Even Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister, had also promised the Bangladesh government that the BJP would reverse its stand and push for both the LBA as well as the Teesta river water settlement.
Earlier, the Land Boundary Agreement was promised to Bangladesh by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit to Dhaka in 2011. But the bill was not presented in the Parliament due to opposition from the BJP over Assam enclaves and the Trinamool Congress over West Bengal enclaves.
119th Constitution amendment Bill, 2013
Earlier on 18 December 2013, the UPA Government had introduced 119th Constitution amendment Bill, 2013 in the Rajya Sabha to give effect to the LBA with Bangladesh. However, the Bill was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice on 31 December 2013.
The Bill was introduced to ratify the India-Bangladesh Agreement or Indira – Mujib pact that was signed in 1974 but not ratified as it involved transfer of territory which required a Constitutional Amendment.
Main features of the 119th Constitution amendment Bill, 2013
• It amends the First Schedule of the Constitution to give effect to the LBA between India and Bangladesh agreed on 16 May 1974. The First Schedule of the Constitution defines the area of each state and union territory which together constitute India.
• The Bill amends paragraphs in the First Schedule relating to the territories of Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya, and Tripura.
• The Bill demarcates land boundaries in accordance with the India-Bangladesh agreement signed on 16 May 1974. This agreement underwent further modification through letters exchanged thereafter and a protocol on 6 September 2011.
• The Bill provides for swapping of territories involving handing over 17160 acres of land to Bangladesh in return for 7110 acres in 111 enclaves in West Bengal, Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya
In the whole swap more than 50 thousand people will be involved of which about 15000 are on the Indian side of the border. The ratification of the bill will adversely affect lives of a number of Indian nationals who lives in Indian enclaves in Bangladesh territory. They would lose their claim to Indian citizenship.
When: on 1 December 2014