Rehabilitation matters for some 8,800 people caught between the barbed wire fencing and the Zero Line marking the India-Bangladesh border. So does access to water.
Tripura shares an 856km border with Bangladesh. In keeping with international norms, India undertook a fencing
project 150 metres inside the Zero Line in a bid to check influx of immigrants and cross-border crimes.
But some stretches have been left unfenced owing to local disputes. Consequently, some people living on this 150m strip between the Zero Line and the fence have stayed put, their link with India being through gates manned by the Border Security Force (BSF).
"The fencing requires us to shift to the other side of the fence. We will go only if the government ensures us proper housing and access to water," said Afiya Khatoon, UCN (Uttar Nabadwip Chandrapara) Nagar panchayat committee member.
UCN Nagar has 780 voters, many of them fence-sitters. They don't mind switching their loyalty to whoever solves their water crisis.
"For some reason or the other, the wells and tube-wells on our side of the border don't produce water. We thus have no choice but to sneak into Bangladesh for a few pails of water every day," said Sharbat Ali, 90.
"Unless we are provided water, moving to the other side of the fence would mean walking longer distances to fetch water from Bangladesh."
BSF personnel manning the border said it is difficult to keep track of people moving to and from Bangladesh as the houses flanking the Zero Line are too many and too close to each other.