The situation at the enclaves was euphoric after the passing of 119th Constitutional Amendment Bill in Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) and after the signing of protocol between the Bangladeshi and Indian prime ministers at Dhaka, Bangladesh, the ecstasy reached its epitome. Majority of the populace found this action as a ray of hope and MASUM including civil society from both the countries found a respite regarding this long pending issue of bilateral concern. India and Bangladesh signed total 22 Bilateral agreements in one day, i.e. on 7th June 2015; including Land Boundary Agreement, by which enclaves (111 Indian in Bangladesh, 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India) will be transferred.

But this act in haste by the governments and their attitude to exclude the populace from decision making would open up a Pandora's Box of distress and conflict. The whole process to resolve a long standing issue of citizenry rights for enclave dwellers was culminated while not a single dweller was consulted or their opinion has been taken into consideration. Now, after this signing thousands living in a foreign land and an intention to migrate to a country of their choice or in another situation, willing to stay back at their native; which has received new geo-political identity of separate country facing equal uncertainty and became victims of attacks from religio-political fundamentalists and various forms of vested interests.

Just before and after the signing, there were several incidents where enclave dwellers of both the countries were being attacked, their houses being torched, threatened to leave their land and houses ransacked. The reports of human destitution are pouring from enclaves: only corroborating worst apprehension and concern.
On 7th June 2015 an exodus of male residents from Daseyerchhora (Indian enclave) happened; even aged persons were not spared. An office of Enclave Committee (Chitmahal United Committee) was being ransacked. At Banskatha Chit no.-115 (Indian enclave); Hindus are being threatened by the non-enclave Bangladeshi hooligans; though Hindus were majority in this enclave. Banskatha Chit no.-119 (Indian enclave); has a distance of mere 5 bighas with mainland India and they demanded for corridor and Indian citizenship but continuously being threatened by the religious fundamentalist Jamat groups and a large number of people left their village since Dhaka accord on 7 June, 2015.

In Indian part, Mashaldanga in Coochbehar district, erstwhile Bangladeshi enclave experienced similar attacks; on the evening of 7th June, the natives of mentioned enclave were attacked, houses were torched. Enclave dwellers are threatened and being asked to leave Indian land.

The inadequacies, deficiencies, contradictions and unconstitutionalities of the land transfer issues must be solved by the States; otherwise the issue must be referred to International Court of Justice.
Kirity Roy,
Secretary, MASUM


Green Issues
‘Sabuj Mancha’, a platform of organizations and individuals concerned for environment, likes to highlight how during the last year the critical issues relating to environment in the state of West Bengal have largely and systematically been neglected by environment department as well as state Pollution Control Board.

The central government too is also neglecting important environmental issuus and only showcasing hype in the matter. There have been nothing but spread of publicity and gimmicks so far on green issues; be it 'Swacch Bharat' or 'Namami Ganga', and on the contrary environmental clearances have been accorded at record speed to industrial lobby with minimum consideration of green issues. The last central budget also highlights the trend of ill treatment being meted out to environment.

State environment department and West Bengal Pollution Control Board are utter failures in controlling noise pollution; be it noise from loudspeakers or from bursting of crackers. During last kalipuja and diwali, ‘Sabuj Mancha’, through its civil society monitoring and receiving of complaints in control room, found that virtually all noise norms were thrown out of window and violations occurred as routine with state administration including state pollution control board being a silent spectator; in fact a de facto accomplice. Even the hospitals were not spared. This was despite ‘Sabuj Mancha’ repeatedly warning the administration beforehand.

The questionable role of state environment department and state pollution control board have further come in to fore due to their non effective and virtually mute roles during two important cases being heard in Eastern India National Green Tribunal recently. The state board made no forceful effort to counter in bench despite being a party in a public interest petition filed against a state election commission order allowing use of microphone in open during campaign of recently concluded municipal election in state; though previously they successfully challenged—in both Supreme Court and High Court—any opposition to order on blanket ban of microphone use in open during major secondary and higher secondary examinations in state. Environment department, state board and police also were silent observers when the norms were routinely flouted by all political parties leading to municipal election.

More recently board also could not effectively counter in green tribunal the plea of allowing 125 decibels in cracker noise within state though the same was never accepted by judiciary during last two decades whenever being raised by the cracker lobby. There is every reason to suspect that such things are happening not by default, but by design.

Though water bodies have been filled up, trees being cut or ground water being illegally extracted regularly in various parts of state both state environment department and state pollution control board have remained silent spectators. This is despite environment activists in various parts of state being attacked for opposing such crimes. Two important recent examples may be referred. Dr Goutam Pal in Santipur and Surajit Maity in Kultali were attacked, manhandled and had to be hospitalized when they, respectively, opposed cutting of trees in their area. Though various civil society groups including ‘Sabuj Mancha’ expressed solidarity and provided support, state environment department and board never even tried to enquire the matters; set aside providing support to these hapless people. This is despite state government's repeated public posturing to save environment. It is unfortunate that state environment Department and state board have restricted themselves to postures and posters without no effective action on ground. As a matter of fact whenever questions are raised about any environmental issues, more often board shirks its responsibility by stating that the same does not come under its jurisdiction. However board must think twice before spending huge amounts on issues clearly beyond its mandate under law.

Pollution Control Board has actually turned into Pollution Corruption Board. Apart from complaints of corruptions, there have been multiple allegations of mis-utilisation of board's funds as funds were wasted for activities not being mandated for board. There have been complaints about setting up a water fountain spending crores in Rabindra Sarabor (Lake) though it had nothing to do with environment. There are also complaints about spending huge amounts on so called afforestation (interestingly the money has been given to forest department which is under law mandated to undertake the task), building urinals, upgrading burial ground and likewise. There has also been a major scam about development of board's website spending millions. Apparently many outsiders have—and are—being brought as experts for comfortable rehabilitation and a huge sum is regularly wasted on them though the board does not benefit from such people.

The worst thing that happened to board in recent times has been a complete cut off of interaction with civil society in particular and common people in general. The state board has been known for its openness to civil society being strengthened by a strong public grievance redressal system. However such system has been systematically eroded over last few years and the board has increasingly being insulated from common people.
Naba Datta, Secretary,
Sabuj Mancha,
[A Platform of Organizations & People Supporting Environment, Kolkata]


Land Acquisition Bill
Presently a joint committee of Parliament is considering "The Right To Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation & Resettlement (Second Amendment) Bill 2015".

India once being a largely agricultural based country is fast turning into concrete-jungles by rapid acquisition of agricultural land to be developed in cities and industrial corridors. This trend is mainly benefiting corporate sector and those allied in corridors of power. Continuous rise in prices of pulses and other agricultural products is result of continuous and fast shrinkage of agricultural land in the country. Even though encouraging industry is also necessary, yet balance must be made so that more industries may be developed mainly in existing non-agricultural land. Shrinkage of agricultural land has also resulted in large-scale continuous migration of people in rural areas towards cities mainly in metro-cities like Delhi. It may be noted that civic amenities, traffic-situation have badly been affected in Delhi apart from comparatively heavy cost of living also creating environmental issues for which even National Green Tribunal (NGT) has also to order various directions in regard to Delhi.

It must be ensured that farmers once having accepted compensation for land-acquisition, must not be allowed additional compensation later with rise in cost and development of acquired land. People investing money by getting acquired land even through government-sponsored housing-schemes must not be made victim of additional cost of land because of providing additional cost of land to farmers due to agitations which are mostly at behest of political parties provoking farmers for their political gain. Such rise in cost of land disturbs badly budget and future financial planning of opting in government-sponsored housing-schemes for no fault of theirs. It is significant that compensation given to farmers originally is much higher than prevailing cost of land at time of acquisition.
Subhash Chandra Agrawal,

Vol. 48, No. 1, July 12 - 18, 2015