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India – Bangladesh Land Boundary bill gets cleared by Union Cabinet

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The constitution (119th) amendment bill 2013, which will allow the operationalisation of the 1974 India -Bangladesh Land agreement was cleared by Union Cabinet on May 5, 2015. The envisaged exchange of land includes enclaves and “adverse possessions” from West Bengal, Meghalaya, Tripura and Assam.

The India-Bangladesh Agreement was signed in 1974, but was not ratified as it involved transfer of territory which required a Constitutional Amendment. Hence, the government is planning to introduce this revised bill in the current session of parliament.

  • Once Parliament Clears the Bill, it would pave the way for the historic agreement being ratified by India at a formal signing ceremony expected to take place when Narendra Modi visits Dhaka in June.
  • According to the agreement, India is to receive 2,777.038 acres of land and to transfer 2267.682 acres to Bangladesh.
  • India has 111 enclaves within Bangladesh (70 square km) whereas Bangladesh has 51 enclaves in India (28 square km)
  • Assam will stand to lose 268 acres of land in lieu of 714 acres currently with Bangladesh.
  • Definition of ‘India-Bangladesh Agreement’: The Bill refers to demarcated land boundaries in accordance with the India-Bangladesh agreement signed on May 16, 1974.This agreement underwent further modification through letters exchanged thereafter and a protocol on September 6, 2011.
  • Exchange of territories: The territories involved are in the states of Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Tripura. Many of these are enclaves (i.e., territory belonging to one country that is entirely surrounded by the other country), and there are even enclaves-within-enclaves.
  • Amendment to the First Schedule of the Constitution: The Bill amends paragraphs relating to the territories of Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya, and Tripura in the First Schedule of the Constitution.

Timeline :

  • 1974 – India – Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement was signed on May 16,1974 between Indira Gandhi and Mujibur Rehman, but not ratified.
  • 2011 – In September 2011, Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh of India and Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh signed an accord on border demarcation and exchange of adversely held enclaves; however, the Indian parliament has yet to ratify it. Under this intended agreement, the enclave residents could continue to reside at their present location or move to the country of their choice.
  • 2013 – The Constitution (119th Amendment) Bill, 2013 was introduced to the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of Parliament of India, on 18 December 2013.
  • 2014 – The Parliament panel, Standing Committee on External Affairs, approved the bill in November 2014
  • 2015 – Cabinet clears the revised land boundary agreement delinking Assam on April 29, 2015
  • 2015 – On May 5, Government reversed its decision of excluding Assam from the purview of its Bill on exchanging land with Bangladesh.