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Fence snatches livelihood of border villagers
Biplab kr dey
 TURA, Aug 10 - More than 80 families of South Garo Hills (SGH) have expressed resentment over non-payment of compensation for their land and the loss of livelihood avenues due to border fencing.

The affected families submitted a memorandum to the DC of SGH last week, highlighting their plight and enlisting a list of demands for their uplift and resettlement.

The Indo-Bangla Border Grievances Committee (SGH), Rongara cited the problems being faced by the residents of the Indian territory which now falls outside due to the construction of the fencing along the Indo-Bangla border, stated the memorandum.

The Committee urged him to take up the matter with Government of India. “Many families have owned farming land, houses, paddyland and other crop fields from the early times. The recent construction of the fencing along the Indo-Bangladesh border within the Indian territory has affected their livelihood,” said Singnak D Shira, chairman of the forum.

The memorandum stated that more than 80 families are on the other side of the border fencing. “They have not been able to earn their livelihood as they have to depend on the BSF timings even for access to their farmland. They cannot also fell trees as the area now falls under no man’s land and no new construction is allowed. Those who could afford have shifted beyond the area, but others are stuck,” Skillson Sangma, secretary of the association, said.

Most affected families have moved elsewhere, leaving behind huge tracts of agricultural land. Most of them have received no compensation and rehabilitation from the Government. “We have been informed by the BSF to prepare for shifting or be ready to be forcefully displaced. If displaced from our present settlements, we will have no economic security as our farming and agricultural land, houses and other things will have to be abandoned,” he added.

“We are being discriminated against and denied all kinds of facilities by the Government of India and Meghalaya, including electricity, water supply, education, medical service, etc. We are not even allowed to construct houses or roam freely as the gates of the border road mostly remain closed. Even during emergencies, there is no exception. School students cannot reach class on time as the gates remain closed. Moreover, due to rise of militancy, we have been living in fear. We have been threatened by certain sections of people from Bangladesh who even took away our belongings forcefully,” added Sangma.

The complainants alleged that the construction of the border fencing at some places was beyond the designated 150 yards. They submitted a list of demands including compensation for loss of farming (cashew nuts, rubber and betel nut plantations), land and houses, rehabilitation packages for all displaced families to buy land and build houses inside the fencing, etc.

The memorandum listed the affected villages as Me’ata, Bhawanipur, Bilkona, Rangasora, Dambul A’pal, Toklekbari, Gramkol, Rongara Makbiljora, Rongara Imbloka, Kanai, Adachepa, Bonbera, Batlaban, Mahadeo Warima Kona and Moheskola.

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