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How a game of chess between King of Cooch Behar and Maharaja of Rangpur created India-Bangladesh border issue

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By Harshmeet Singh

India’s historic land swap deal with Bangladesh was perhaps one of the very few instances where the current Government gave due credit to its predecessor. During the recent discussions about the constitutional amendment bill in the Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, the External Affairs Minister said, “I have said this before and I’m saying it again that this work was started by Manmohan Singh and we are only completing it.”

After hectic consultations and short lived blame game, the Government decided to include the Bangladeshi territories lying in Assam in the agreement as well. While the experts are terming this constitutional amendment as a ‘success’, majority of the common public is still clueless as to what this agreement exactly holds.

What exactly is the issue here?

Unlike most other nations, India and Bangladesh share a complex border. Fortunately, this ‘complexity’ isn’t due to any disagreement on where the actual border lies. It is the placement of these ‘well-accepted’ borders that gives birth to these complexities.

There are a number of enclaves on in the northern part of the border shared by India and Bangladesh. Enclaves are small pieces of land surrounded from all sides by a foreign country. The most famous enclave in the world is the Vatican City, which is located inside Italy’s capital, Rome. Another example is the Kingdom of Lesotho, which is located inside South Africa.

There are 106 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh. The largest among them is Dasiar Chhara which has an area of 6.65 square km. Bangladesh, on the other hand, has 92 enclaves in India, with the largest one being 25.95 square km. And that is not all! There are many counter enclaves and counter-counter enclaves as well. On the Indian side, these enclaves are located in the states of Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Tripura.

How did it all mess up?

There is no proven historical record about the exact happenings that led to this border situation. It is said that these enclaves came into being as a result of exchanges during chess matches between King of Cooch Behar and Maharaja of Rangpur. The final shape of the enclaves was a part of a treaty between the Mughal Kingdom and the King of Cooch Behar in 1713. During partition, Cooch Behar came to India whereas Rangpur went to erstwhile East Pakistan. Due to constant trouble with Pakistan, these issues were never looked into till 1971.

The history of negotiations

The land swap deal came on the table for the first time in 1974 when Mujibur Rehman and Indira Gandhi signed an agreement to exchange the respective enclaves. Under this agreement, India provided a narrow strip of land to Bangladesh to provide access to its Dahagram and Angarpota enclaves in India. This narrow strip of land is called ‘Teen Bigha Corridor’. While Bangladesh was quick to ratify the agreement in its national parliament, India could never get it passed.

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In 2011, Manmohan Singh signed a ‘border demarcation’ and ‘enclaves exchange’ agreement with Sheikh Hasina. The UPA 2 Government tried to push forward the 1974 agreement in the Parliament and get it ratified, but it was vehemently opposed by the BJP. The move also saw sharp opposition from other parties including Trinamool Congress and Asom Gana Parishad. The BJP, in fact, in 2011, said that such exchange would be a ‘national loss’ to the country! Even this time, there were multiple hiccups in the passage of the bill, with the NDA Government keeping Assam out of the agreement till the very last moment.

What does it mean for the people living in those enclaves?

According to a joint census in July 2010, there were 37,269 Indian citizens in Indian enclaves and 14,215 Bangladeshi citizens in its enclaves in India. Residents of these enclaves live in despicable conditions. With no connection with their own Government, basic amenities such as electricity and healthcare are a distant possibility for them. They can’t cross over to their own nation since it would mean that they are entering foreign land without permissions.

The land swap agreement is expected to change the lives of over 50,000 people for the better. All those residing in the Bangladeshi enclaves in India shall be granted Indian citizenship in accordance with the section-7 of the ‘Indian Citizenship Act, 1955’. This act provides Indian citizenship to the population residing in territories incorporated in India. The same section was applied when Sikkim was incorporated into India in 1975.

With both countries promising a favourable treatment to the residents of each other’s enclaves, much migration across the border isn’t expected once the agreement is implemented on the ground. This agreement would also help in keeping a check on infiltration and illegal entry of narcotics and other banned commodities across the border. Although India would lose about 40 kilometres square land in the deal, the final resolution to the long lingering issue is worth the cost.

  • Urvashi

    Extremely enlightening. Brilliant piece!

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Cow Numbers in India Witnesses a Sharp Increase Since 2012

The female cattle (cows) population is 145.12 million, increasing by 18 per cent over the previous census (2012)

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The 18 per cent jump in the Cow numbers in 2019 is sharply higher than the increase in livestock population at 4.6 per cent and increase in bovine population by one per cent. Pixabay

There has been a sharp jump, by 18 per cent, in the Cow Numbers in the country, as per the latest livestock census report released on Wednesday, over the previous enumeration done in 2012.

he NDA government at the Centre and the BJP governments in various states have introduced many schemes for the protection and welfare of cows.

The 18 per cent jump in the number of cows in 2019 is sharply higher than the increase in livestock population at 4.6 per cent and increase in bovine population by one per cent.

The total livestock population in the country increased by 4.6 per cent over the previous census conducted in 2012, to a total of 535.78 million.

The female cattle (cows) population is 145.12 million, increasing by 18 per cent over the previous census (2012).

The 20th Livestock Census report was released by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying on Wednesday.

The total bovine population comprising cattle, buffalo, mithuns and yaks is at 302.79 million in 2019 which shows an increase of about 1 per cent over the previous census.

In addition, the total number of cattle in the country in 2019 is 192.49 million showing an increase of 0.8 per cent over the previous census.

The 20th Livestock Census was conducted in participation with all states and Union Territories. The enumeration was done both in rural and urban areas.

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The 20th Livestock Census report on Cow Numbers was released by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying on Wednesday. Pixabay

Various kinds of animals including cattle, buffaloes, mithuns, yaks, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, ponies, mules, donkeys, camels, dogs, rabbits and elephants, and poultry birds including fowls, ducks, emus, turkeys, quails and other poultry birds possessed by the households, household enterprises and non-household enterprises and institutions have been counted at their site.

The data of more than 27 crore households and non-households have been collected in the 20th Livestock Census to assess and arrive at the livestock and poultry count in the country.

According to the census, there is a decline of 6 per cent in the total indigenous/ non-descript cattle population over the previous census. However, the pace of decline of this cattle population during 2012-2019 is much lesser than as compared to the 2007-12 period, where it was about 9 per cent.

The total buffaloes in the country numbered 109.85 million showing an increase of about 1 per cent over the previous census.

The total milch animals (in-milk and dry) in cows and buffaloes is 125.34 million, an increase of 6 per cent over the previous census.

The total poultry in the country, at 851.81 million in 2019, registered an increase of 16.8 per cent.

The total commercial poultry in the country is 534.74 million in 2019, increasing by 4.5 per cent over the previous census.

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The NDA government at the Centre and the BJP governments in various states have introduced many schemes for Cow Protection and Welfare. Pixabay

The major thrust given to the latest census is the collection of data through tablets computers. This census is a unique attempt as for the first time such a major initiative has been take to digitise household level data through online transmission from the field.

In the whole operations, the state/UT governments engaged more than 80,000 field personnel who are mostly veterinarians and para-veterinarians for the smooth conduct of the exercise.

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The Livestock Census has been conducted in the country periodically since 1919-20 and covers all domesticated animals and their headcounts. So far 19 such censuses have been conducted. (IANS)