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Only 200 refugees turn up so far for identification

Inmates of a Bru refugee camp in Tripura.
 AIZAWL, Aug 19 - Even as the final repatriation of Bru refugees from the six relief camps in northern Tripura is scheduled to begin from August 25, only 200 refugees have so far turned up for identification.

On July 3, a quadripartite agreement was signed by the Central Government, State Governments of Tripura and Mizoram and the umbrella organisation of Bru refugees Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) to repatriate the remaining 32,876 refugees from 5,407 families, lodged in the relief camps since 1997, to Mizoram before September 30.

“With just a week to go for the repatriation to take off, only 200 out of 32,876 refugees have registered their names so far,” an official said. Naisingpara camp, Ashapara and Hazachara camp in Tripura witnessed very negligible footfalls for registration for repatriation, he said.

As per the repatriation agreement, each family will be given one-time financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh to be kept in fixed deposit in the name of the head of the family within one month of repatriation. All 5,407 families shall be given this assistance for resettlement.

Each resettled family will be given cash assistance of Rs 5,000 per month (DBT mode) along with free ration for two years. The families shall receive house building assistance of Rs 1.5 lakh to be disbursed in three installments as per the agreement.

However, within two weeks of the agreement, the MBDPF pulled out of the deal due to alleged strong protests by the Bru community in Tripura against certain terms of the deal. This seems to be the reason behind the refugees’ reluctance to register their names for the repatriation.

Now, bowing down to the pressures mounted by the Members of Bru Displacement Forum (MBDPF), the Union Home Ministry has agreed to relax conditions laid down in the agreement.

According to the initial agreement, the Rs 4 lakh cash assistance was to be provided only after three years of uninterrupted stay in Mizoram. Sources said the Home Ministry has now agreed that for those (Brus) who are willing to return to Mizoram, it might relax the period of stay for cash assistance of Rs 4 lakh from three years to two or even one and a half years. Also the refugees may be allowed to withdraw 90 per cent of the Rs 4 lakh assistance as bank loan immediately after their return.

The Centre may also dilute the conditions in place for financial assistance. According to the original agreement, a house building assistance of Rs 1.5 lakh was to be disbursed in three installments. This could now be relaxed further, with those Bru refugees building a house on their return to Mizoram being allowed to take the Rs 1.5 lakh assistance in a single installment or two, an official explained.

Home Ministry sources said Bru communities in Tripura have also been assured that on relocation, at least 50 refugees will be settled in each village. The MBDPF had demanded cluster housing for all those being repatriated, a proposal that was rejected by Mizoram Government.

With this relaxation of agreement, the Bru refugees may now be willing to register their names, officials hoped.

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