Rajya Sabha passes historic bill on land-swap with Bangladesh

The Rajya Sabha today unanimously passed a bill to operationalise the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh that provides for exchange of certain territories from either country to settle the 41-year border issue.

The Rajya Sabha passed the Constitution (One Hundred and Nineteenth Amendment) Bill, 2013, unanimously with 181 votes in favour and none against it.

Moving the bill for passage, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj clarified that the exchange of certain enclaves will not necessitate movement of population.

"This is a historic situation. We are going to implement the agreement after 41 years. I am happy that everyone supported the bill," Swaraj said while moving the bill for passage.

Talking about BJP's opposition to the measure during UPA's tenure, she said her party has now realised that the agreement will benefit both countries.

"Earlier we had opposed it. We were told to include Assam, which has been done."

"We are aware of the complexities involved in implementation of the agreement. The earlier we implement (the agreement), sooner we reap the benefits," she said.

The bill aims at giving effect to the possession and exchange of enclaves through acquisition and transfer in pursuance of the agreement of 1974.

Select territories in Assam, West Bengal, Tripura and Meghalaya come under the ambit of the bill.

She said there would not be any "demographic change or exchange" and people from either side can avail citizenship if they wish. In any case, she said, the government will ensure that Indians moving to Bangladesh would enjoy a "dignified life."

Swaraj also allayed fears that the agreement may lead to shrinking of borders. "This agreement will not shrink our borders. We will have an advantage of 500 acres. Though 10,000 acres will go to them, it is just notional and those enclaves are deep," she said.

As far as Assam is concerned, India will be getting 470 acres of land from the neighbouring country, while 268 acres would go to Bangladesh, she added.

The bill would require ratification of at least 50 per cent of the state legislatures before it comes into effect.

The union home ministry will be the nodal ministry for implementing it, she said.