"BJP not to back amendment unless satisfied with merits of Land Swap Deal"

New Delhi: Veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader S S Ahluwalia said that his party would not support the Constitutional Amendment Bill in connection with the Land Swap Deal between India and Bangladesh unless satisfied with the merits of the same.

“After the Winter Session of the Parliament, National Security Advisor (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon met Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively. Sushma Swaraj asked Menon to provide a detailed presentation on the Land Swap Deal in order to convince the party that the deal was in the national interest. Our contention was to ensure that India did not become a loser as a result of the deal. However, Menon never came back to us after that," Ahluwalia told the The Yomiuri Shimbun.

“We are still waiting for the government to respond to our request to discuss the merits and demerits of the deal. We are not against the Deal per se but at the same time, we would not support it unless convinced and satisfied with its substance," he stated.

On September 9 last year, the BJP formed a group headed by S S Ahluwalia to study the contents and repercussions of the Land Swap Agreement signed between India and Bangladesh three days before on September 6.

Ahluwalia revealed to the The Yomiuri Shimbun that he found people living in these enclaves in a state of extreme misery.

"These people are not clear about their future. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government at the Centre is not making any infrastructural development in these areas because it would in any case be exchanged with Bangladeshi enclaves. There is scarcity of everything in these enclaves, needless to say that water and power supply are a major issue," the BJP leader said.

Ahluwalia, who failed to save his seat in Rajya Sabha polls in Jharkhand last week, said that the agreement pertaining to exchange of enclaves between the two countries requires alteration of territory.

"According to the Indian Constitution, any alteration of territory or boundary requires statutory amendment. The BJP is opposed to this deal as till date we are not sure of what we stand to gain out of the same. We want to ascertain the exact mass of barren and fertile land held by Indian and Bangladeshi enclaves on both sides of the border which would form the subject matter of exchange," Ahluwalia averred.

“The UPA government signed the deal with Bangladesh without taking into confidence the elected representatives of the people. Before signing the deal, they should have at least spoken to the members of the legislative assemblies of the states concerned viz., West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram as also the members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. But our government at the Centre led by Congress did not deem it proper to seek their opinion on such a crucial matter," he added.

The veteran BJP leader also deplored the failure on the part of the UPA government to prepare the draft of the Constitutional Amendment required to effect the Deal.

"We are certainly not expecting it to be prepared and tabled even in the Monsoon Session due to upcoming Presidential elections," he lamented.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India (CPI) has asked the government to urgently take up the issue of exchange of enclaves with Bangladesh. The party feels that such a move would provide relief to people living in these areas.

Observing that the problem of exchange of these enclaves was persisting since Independence due to lack of political will, CPI Member Prabodh Panda told the The Yomiuri Shimbun that "these large number of people of both countries are deprived of political rights and they do not enjoy social facilities that are necessary for development of individuals in a free society."

"I strongly urge the central government to take up the issue urgently with the government of Bangladesh and provide relief to the citizens of both the countries living in these enclaves", he said.

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