India-Bangladesh land swap deal: July 16 last day to choose

New Delhi, July 15 (IANS) For 51,000 people residing in the 162 enclaves that were swapped between India and Bangladesh last month with the inking of the Land Boundary Agreement, July 16, or Thursday is the last day for them to state which of the two countries they would like to be citizen of.

The process for the residents of the enclaves to officially tell the authorities whether they want to be Indians or Bangladeshi citizens began on July 6, and they were given till July 16 to state their option, said sources.

There are 14,000 people living in 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in Indian territory, with a total area of 7,110 acres, while there are 37,000 people living in 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh, with a total area 17,160 acres.

The enclaves were swapped between India and Bangladesh after the inking and exchange of documents of the Land Boundary Agreement on June 6 in Dhaka, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina.

Joint India-Bangladesh survey teams fanned out across the enclaves to tell the residents to make their choice of citizenship and also about the rehabilitation that will be provided by the governments.

The Indian and Bangladeshi officials are also trying to determine the official land records of the residents, and where there is none to inquire and determine the land they possess.

The entire process of moving the residents, of those who choose to move to either country, will be completed by November 30 this year.

The movement, and the rehabilitation process, will begin after the monsoon season is over, and be completed by the November 30 deadline, said sources.

A joint India-Bangladesh working group overseeing the process of movement has met once and the officials are also visiting the enclaves.

The officials are informing the residents of what their options are and also trying to get a hang of the exact number of people who would be moving to either country.

The final census of the number of people choosing to move would be known after the monsoon.

Officials of both countries are also trying to work out details of the rehabilitation package, including the land pieces they would be given in exchange for what they left behind or monetary relief.

The residents would initially be kept in relief tents before being rehabilitated.

On June 6, India and Bangladesh exchanged the documents of ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement for implementation of transfer of the enclaves.

The LBA was inked in 1974 by then Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi.

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