Guwahati, Monday, June 17, 2013
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Border fencing runs into trouble in Garo Hills
Biplab Kumar Dey
 TURA, June 16 – The border fencing between Bangladesh and India is almost complete. The fence has been constructed so as to ensure that people from across the border are unable to gain entry and likewise for the people of India. However, for most of the people of the border areas, compensation is still due and it has been four years since they have seen even a rupee for the land that was acquired for the fencing.

The Border Area Land Owners Forum (BALOF), set up to look into the problems the people are facing, have highlighted a huge number of anomalies in the process of land acquisition as well as compensation. The President of the BALOF, Edward T Sangma said “We have spoken to NBCC, Garo Hills Autonomous District Council and the District Administration, but have not got help from any of them”.

According to the forum, the problems began right at the outset, when the NBCC went to the border areas to survey the land to be used for the purpose of fencing. They alleged that all procedures have been eschewed when the survey was started. They were supposed to do a joint survey along with the Nokmas, GHADC and the District Administration, but the NBCC did the survey by themselves.

The Nokma of Dabram, who lost a lot of land due to the acquisition, said “We are the land owners and the ones who were directly affected by the acquisition, but we were never consulted. Now, if you look at the way the fencing has come up, a lot of land that could have been saved has been lost. The NBCC is directly to blame as they acquired land discriminately, along with BSF personnel.

“I have about six bighas of land in non-man’s land. To top it all, the compensation process has not even started.

The Land Acquisition (LA) papers have been redone many times. While one department says that the papers are okay, the second one sees some anomalies and sends it back to the first department.

Edward said that the NBCC went against the law, when it did not follow the Land Acquisition Act, which calls for 80 per cent compensation to be paid before the start of construction. While the fencing has been done to protect the border, he said, the situation has become grim for them. Agriculture has been stopped, their plantations of cashew and rubber are being stolen by the people from across the border and they have no money. Edward said “While everyone is concerned about the growing influx and wants to stop the illegal entry, the process should not adversely affect citizens of the land. While India has been building the fences, does India, in any way, think that Bangladesh will do the same? The survey was incorrect and thus we have lost a lot of land in the process. I am sure Bangladesh will be more than happy with the generous gesture of India and start their occupation of the place. We won’t be surprised if in the next few years, there are houses of Bangladeshi citizens, which encroaches the zero point.”

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