Siliguri/Tin Bigha (West Bengal), March 31: Home Minister Rajth Singh on Tuesday batted for ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) with Bangladesh on humanitarian grounds, as he assessed the situation at the frontier and visited border enclaves in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal.
On day one of his two-day trip to the eastern state, he said he was ready to talk to its Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for providing land for more border outposts (BOPs).
While Rajth Singh’s visit assumes significance in the wake of the tiol Investigation Agency asserting the terrorists involved in the Burdwan blast had conspired with Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, (JMB) to overthrow the government in Dhaka, Banerjee triggered a controversy wondering if the home minister’s tour was “political”.
“The visit was aimed to gather information about the enclave dwellers,” Rajth Singh said after visiting a Bangladeshi enclave in Balapukhri in Cooch Behar and taking stock of the ground reality in the area.
“On humanitarian grounds also, the Land Boundary Agreement should certainly be ratified. The enclave dwellers should get the facilities which they are deprived of,” he said.
Holding talks with officers of the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), Singh said land acquisition problems was hindering setting up more BOPs.
“It was a cordial meet with BSF and BGB officers. Besides visiting the border, the visit was also to enquire about the problems that our BSF personnel may have. I was here also to look into how the border area development works is progressing,” he said.
“In the unfenced areas, if fencing is possible, there will we try to fence those areas.
“As regards, BOPs, there are some areas where we want to set p BOPs, but because of the land acquisition problem we are uble to set up the BOPs. I have written to the West Bengal government on this, and if need be, I will speak to the chief minister,” he added. Once the LBA is passed, India will cede 111 enclaves measuring 17,160 acres to Bangladesh and receive 51 enclaves covering 7,110 acres. More than 51,000 people reside in these enclaves.
While both the Banerjee-led Trimool Congress and the Bharatiya Jata Party have expressed eagerness over the LBA getting ratified, the parties had rallied with the Asom Ga Parishad to block, in the Rajya Sabha, the passage of the Constitution (119th Amendment) Bill, 2013, that seeks to ratify the agreement.
Though not allowed to talk to Rajth Singh, the Bharat Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Coordition Committee (BBEECC) — an organisation fighting for the rights of the enclave dwellers — said it submitted a memorandum to the home minister.
Slated to visit border outposts in the Sundarbans on Wednesday, Singh later in the evening called on Governor K.N. Tripathi at the Raj Bhavan in Kolkata along with state BJP unit chief Rahul Sinha.
Questioning the motive behind Singh’s visit, Banerjee slammed the BJP led central government for not holding any “prior discussion” on the tour.
“Is it an official visit or a political visit,” asked Banerjee claiming “no prior discussion or consultation” was done with her government about the Singh’s trip.
“I think in our federal structure, we must respect each other’s jurisdiction,” she said, claiming she only received a fax message about the visit.
The Trimool also expressed its reservation over Sinha accompanying the minister during his meet with the governor.
Trashing Banerjee’s charges, the BJP immediately hit back accusing the Trimool supremo of politicising a matter concerning tiol security.
“Irrespective of the centre’s cooperation with the state, Mamata Banerjee continues to politicise something that is related to tiol security,” BJP tiol secretary Siddhartha th Singh said.
He claimed that the union home minister’s office on March 25 had communicated about the visit to the secretary to the Bengal governor, to the chief minister’s secretary and other officials concerned including the state’s chief and home secretaries. IANS