Constitution (100th Amendment) Act 2015

Constitution (100th Amendment) Act 2015 ratified the land boundary agreement between India and Bangladesh. The act amended the 1st schedule of the constitution to exchange the disputed territories occupied by both the nations in accordance with the 1974 bilateral LBA. India received 51 Bangladeshi enclaves (covering 7,110 acres) in the Indian mainland, while Bangladesh received 111 Indian enclaves (covering 17,160 acres) in the Bangladeshi mainland.

Why it was enacted?

The India-Bangladesh Agreement was signed in 1974, but was not ratified as it involved transfer of territory which required a Constitutional Amendment.  Hence, the amendment was enacted.

India and Bangladesh share a 4,096 km land boundary covering West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram. This is largest among the international boundaries that India shares with its neighbours. On this boundary, some 50,000-100,000 people reside in so called Chitmahals or Indo-Bangladeshi enclaves.  There are 102 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh and 71 Bangladeshi ones inside India. Inside those enclaves are also 28 counter-enclaves and one counter-counter-enclave, called Dahala Khagrabari. This ambiguity has led the life of the residents of these enclaves to misery. They are unable to get the basic government services because they are isolated from their own country by strips of foreign land. This issue was pending ever since Bangladesh got birth. For the first time, a vision to solve this issue had been enshrined in the Indira-Mujib pact of 1972. Accordingly, the India Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement was signed between the two countries in 1974. However, this agreement need ratification from the parliaments of the both countries as it involved exchange of the territories. While Bangladesh had ratified it as back as 1974 only, it was not ratified by Indian parliament till now.

Important provisions

The LBA envisages a notional transfer of 111 Indian enclaves to Bangladesh in return of 51 enclaves to India.

Amendment to the First Schedule of the Constitution:

  • The Bill amends the First Schedule of the Constitution to give effect to an agreement entered into by India and Bangladesh on the acquiring and transfer of territories between the two countries on May 16, 1974.  The First Schedule of the Constitution defines the area of each state and union territory which together constitute India.
  • The territories involved are in the states of Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Tripura.  Many of these are enclaves (i.e., territory belonging to one country that is entirely surrounded by the other country), and there are even enclaves-within-enclaves.
  • The enclave residents are to be allowed to either reside at their present location or move to the country of their choice.
  • The enclaves stand exchanged on the midnight of 31 July 2015.
  • The physical exchange of enclaves will be implemented in phases between 31 July 2015 and 30 June 2016.

Implications

  • The area transferred to India is less than that transferred by India to Bangladesh. In totality India incurs a net loss in terms of area occupancy. India lost around 40 km² (10,000 acres) to Bangladesh. This remained a major concern of opposition from the north-eastern affected states and west Bengal.
  • Also, most of the area concerned is occupied by the tribals of the NE states and hence the swapping takes away their land rights leaving them more vulnerable.
  • It represents a permanent solution to a decades old issue;
  • The newly demarcated boundaries are a fixed boundary, thereby adding to certainty regarding the future;
  • It will secure the long stranded boundary and enable to curb the illegal migration, smuggling and criminal acts cross the border.
  • It would help those stateless citizens by granting the citizenship from their respective countries.
  • It would help settle the boundary dispute at several points in Meghalaya, Tripura, Assam, and west Bengal.
  • It would improve the access to the underdeveloped north-eastern state and would further enhance the developmental works in the region.
  • It would help to increase the connectivity with the south-east Asia as part of India’s North-eastern policy. All these could be achieved with the active support from Bangladesh.
  • This also helps on issues of strategic concern, including security cooperation and denial of sanctuary to elements inimical to India.
  • It takes into consideration the situation on the ground and the wishes of the people.

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