Rajya Sabha on Wednesday unanimously passed a historic bill to operationalise the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh that provides for exchange of territories to settle the 41-year border issue.
The Constitution (119th) Amendment Bill, which will allow the operationalisation of the 1974 India-Bangladesh Land Boundary agreement, was passed with full support from 181 members. The bill will be taken up by Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
"This is an historic situation. We are going to implement the agreement after 41 years. I am happy that everyone supported the bill," said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj while moving the bill for passage.
Talking about BJP's opposition to the measure during UPA's tenure, she said, "Earlier we had opposed it. We were told to include Assam, which has been done."
Contending that the Agreement will benefit both countries, she said the Union Home Ministry will be the nodal ministry for implementing it.
"We are aware of the complexities involved in implementation of the agreement. The earlier we implement (the agreement), sooner we reap the benefits," she said.
The bill aims at giving effect to the acquiring of territories by India and tranfer of territories to Bangladesh through retaining of adverse possession and exchange of enclaves in pursuance of the agreement of 1974.
The territories in Assam, West Bengal, Tripura and Meghalaya come under the ambit of the bill.
Noting that the government will ensure Indians moving to Bangladesh would enjoy "dignified life", she said there would not be any "demographic change or exchange" and people from either side can avail citizenship if they wish.
Allaying fears of some members that the agreement may lead to shrinking of borders, Swaraj said, "This agreement will not shrink our borders. We will have an advantage of 500 acres. Though 10,000 acres will go to them, it is just notional and those enclaves are deep."
As far as Assam is concerned, India will be getting 470 acres of land from the neighbouring country, while 268 acres would go to Bangladesh, she added.
The bill would require ratification of at least 50% of the state legislatures before it comes into effect.
It also provides that the central government may, by notification in the official gazette, appoint the date for acquisition and transfer of territories.