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Friday, Dec 06, 2019

Former enclave dwellers spurn flats Bengal govt built for them; TMC blames BJP

The families alleged that the flats are too small and demanded individual houses where they can l keep cattle and livestock.

india Updated: Nov 21, 2019 01:34 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times, Siliguri
On Monday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee  handed over keys to these apartments to 20 families presently living in camps in Haldibari.
On Monday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee handed over keys to these apartments to 20 families presently living in camps in Haldibari.(PTI)

Ninety six families that moved into Indian mainland in Bengal’s Cooch Behar district from Bangladeshi enclaves four years ago have refused to move into two-bedroom flats built by the Mamata Banerjee government at Haldibari.

On Monday, while touring the district, Banerjee handed over keys to these apartments to 20 families presently living in camps in Haldibari. On Tuesday, two Trinamool Congress (TMC) legislators from the region went to hand over the keys to the remaining 76 families but nobody accepted the keys.

Alleging that the flats are too small, the erstwhile enclave dwellers have demanded individual houses where they can keep cattle and livestock. The state has set up two-storey houses in Haldibari for their rehabilitation.

Pawan Kadyan, Cooch Behar district magistrate, said, “The 76 families refused to accept the keys on Tuesday because they were unhappy. They wanted to take the keys form the chief minister. It is more of an emotional issue. They are happy with the flats which are of very high quality.”

“We have also made cattle sheds beside the buildings. Somebody may have instigated these people. If anyone has any specific request the administration will look into it,” said Kadyan.

Later in the evening, Kadyan said that some of the people who earlier refused to move into the buildings went to the office of the local block development office voluntarily to collect papers for the flats allotted to them.

Similar buildings are being built at Dinhata and Mekhliganj in Cooch Behar district. More than 200 families are currently living in temporary camps at these three places.

While the district administration is caught in a fix, local TMC leaders have alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which recently won the local Lok Sabha seat, has influenced these families to gain political mileage.

History was created when 162 enclaves were exchanged between India and Bangladesh on the mid night of July 31, 2015. The residents were given the option to decide which country they would shift to and 201 families shifted to Indian mainland. They were offered rehabilitation package.

Osman Gani, who moved to India his wife, two children and two brothers said, “We were assured by India’s assistant high commissioner in Bangladesh in 2015 that we would get proper rehabilitation. This is not what we wanted.”

“We were promised personal houses. Today, they are forcing us to move into two-bedroom flats. We have been cheated. We are village people who have, for generations, reared animals and grown food to live an independent life. What will be do with a flat?” said Gani.

Diptiman Sengupta, senior district BJP leader and former chief coordinator of Bharat Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Co-ordination Committee, said, “The state government is acting on its own whims and fancies, without caring for the beneficiaries. The Centre allocated Rs 780 crore for settlement and rehabilitation of enclave dwellers but the state has so far not submitted the utilization certificates.”

Nisith Pramanik, BJP MP from Cooch Behar said, “Though the Centre allocated the funds, it is the state government’s job to rehabilitate these families. The administration did not consult them. I will raise the issue in Parliament.”

Udayan Guha and Arghya Roy Pradhan, the two TMC legislators who went to Haldibari on Tuesday to hand over the keys to the remaining 76 families, alleged that the BJP is inciting the beneficiaries.