The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha bid to buy truce with Bloc

Calcutta, Nov. 11: The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government today went soft on implementing the Centre’s decision to relocate villagers within 150 yards of the Indo-Bangla border in an apparent effort to not ruffle the Left Front partners.

The decision to sanitise the border will now be brought into effect only after the issue is discussed by the state Cabinet and the Left Front.

The chief minister and Kamal Guha, the Forward Bloc leader from the border district of Cooch Behar, discussed the issue at a meeting today.

Guha, the state unit president of the front constituent, had protested last month against a letter by the state home department to the magistrates of the border districts. The letter said: “... the group of ministers has recommended that habitation/cultivation should not be allowed in the area between the fence and the border and this area should be sanitised.”

It also asked them to prepare a “proposed action plan” in view of “national security interests”.

The Bloc has a consolidated vote bank in the border districts of north Bengal.

The party’s state secretary, Ashoke Ghosh, had raised questions like “who are these ministers” who had formed a group to remove the residents close to the border'

At today’s meeting, the chief minister told Guha the decision to shift the villagers living within 150 yards of the border was taken by the Centre in 1994 and no Left Front minister from Bengal was involved in it.

After the meeting, Guha said: “I am not happy at all. We would be very worried about the fate of about 50,000 villagers across Nadia, North 24-Parganas, Jalpaiguri, Malda, Cooch Behar, North and South Dinajpur until a final decision is taken. The experience of Tin Bigha is still fresh in our memory.”

Guha had led the protests against allowing people from the neighbouring country to use the Tin Bigha corridor.

Today, he told the chief minister it is not possible to uproot the residents of over 400 villages and relocate them. “It is not viable to shift the villagers from the border areas because they are all Indian citizens. However, the chief minister has promised me that no major decision will be taken without talking to the front partners.”

A “sensitive and important” letter to the district magistrates should not have been written by an “ordinary officer” (an assistant secretary of the home department), an angry Guha said.

“There is every reason for us to misunderstand the situation as we believe an issue such as this should be handled by the most senior level of the bureaucracy,” added Guha.

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