Tripura border fence cuts off huge farmland
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Tripura border fence cuts off huge farmland

In keeping with an agreement with Bangladesh, the fence is being built 150 yards or 137 metres away from the actual border.

india Updated: Apr 12, 2006 21:08 IST

Nearly 120 square km of farmland has fallen outside the barbed wire fence being erected in Tripura along the border with Bangladesh, restricting access to farmers dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.

The land is more than double the area of the state capital Agartala, officials here said.

In keeping with an agreement with Bangladesh, the fence is being built 150 yards or 137 metres away from the actual border. The agreement prohibits the construction of any defensive structure within 150 yards on either side of the boundary.

India's scrupulous adherence to the norms of the pact has resulted in 11,375.71 acres or 117.272 square km of fertile agricultural land falling outside the fence. More than 7,200 families will be displaced from their homes and will require rehabilitation elsewhere in Tripura as a result.

Despite the construction of gates at regular intervals in the fence, officials said the depredation of Bangladeshi dacoits and criminals could pose problems for Indian farmers in cultivating their lands.

The gates remain open during stipulated hours in the daytime and nobody is allowed to use them beyond the scheduled hours.

Officials said 737 km of the total border in Tripura would be fenced by 2007 to check trans-border movement of militants, illegal migration and border crimes.

The fencing has been completed in a little over 352 km and is currently underway along a 100-km stretch that would be finished very soon, the officials said.

The project will affect farmlands, temples and even government institutions in at least six sub-divisional headquarters.

A delegation of all political parties that met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year told him and Home Minister Shivraj Patil that so far 7,123 families had been displaced and the Tripura government has already submitted a proposal for a Rs.930 million rehabilitation package.

"We have urged them to sanction the funds immediately," said state Revenue Minister Keshab Majumder, who led the delegation.

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh government and its border guards have objected to the border fencing at more than 100 places along the border with Tripura. They said India was building the fence within 150 yards of the border at these sites, violating the 1975 agreement.

On a number of occasions, Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) troopers have fired on border fencing workers to stop the work, leading to serious tensions between the two sides.

India has also communicated to Bangladesh that in a few places there are markets, temples, roads and other assets within 150 yards of the border, forcing it to make adjustments in the alignment of the fence, officials said.

The families who are affected by the fence, supported by political parties, have launched a protest. Unless their rehabilitation is completed soon, the agitation is likely to gain momentum, officials said.

India has undertaken an ambitious project to fence 3,286 km of its 4096-km border with Bangladesh in the states of West Bengal, Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram. So far, 2,300 km have been fenced. The project is expected to be complete by 2007.

First Published: Apr 12, 2006 21:08 IST