With the land boundary agreement (LBA) now complete, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is beginning work on the Teesta water sharing agreement with Bangladesh, according to Indian media.
Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will meet in New Delhi on August 11-12 to take stock of things after the land and population exchange as well as work out a checklist for Teesta, which is tougher given the implications for West Bengal farmers, The Times of India reported on Monday.
The execution of the LBA was one of the successes for the otherwise inefficient Indian state, when two nations worked as one: from demarcation of boundaries, to mapping out the exchange of people, joint polls to make sure everyone who was affected got a voice and a choice.
At the end of this mammoth exercise, India gave Bangladesh a total area of 17,160 acres, covering 111 enclaves, and in return received 7,110 acres comprising 51 enclaves.
After 68 years of stateless existence, 14,000 people living in Bangladeshi enclaves in India have opted to stay in India. However, out of the 37,000 living in Indian enclaves in Bangladesh, only 979 people have opted to come to India.
This created an interesting quandary for New Delhi and the West Bengal government. India had reckoned that many more living in Bangladesh would opt to come to India (given the large numbers of illegal migrants who do).
Accordingly, the home secretary had informed the West Bengal government that a package of Rs 3,009 crore would be given to West Bengal to pay for the rehabilitation of the estimated thousands who were to come.
With the final number being only 979, the finance and home ministries have told Mamata that the payout would be much less. Needless to add, Mamata was livid, believing she was being shortchanged. Modi has stepped in before bureaucratic miserliness becomes a political problem with Mamata, who has been a fairly supportive non-ally.
Mamata has been invited to meet Modi on August 11-12 so the Centre and the state can work out a financial support package that covers the effects of both the LBA and Teesta agreement for Bengal.
This would include infrastructure, irrigation support, deal with arsenic in ground water, rehabilitation of displaced persons and new citizens.