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The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Riots shift focus to border fence

Agartala, Aug. 30: Presumably awakened by the continuing violence in Assam, the Union home ministry is preparing a plan for better border management in states of the Northeast, including Tripura.

As part of the exercise, Union home ministry joint secretary Rakesh Singh visited troubled spots along Tripura’s 856km border with Bangladesh.

Singh, who arrived here yesterday morning, inspected the border in Belonia subdivision of South Tripura district and Sonamura subdivision of the newly created Sipahijala district accompanied by BSF inspector-general S. Meena on a BSF chopper.

The joint secretary mainly concentrated on the 18km unfenced area of the border in Sonamura and Belonia subdivisions, where fences could not erected because of protests by local people.

Police sources, however, said the reason for the protests was that a large number of people was engaged in smuggling with Bangladesh.

While quizzing BSF and state officials about the reasons for not fencing the two areas, Singh directed them to erect the fence as soon as possible.

Local people, however, told the official that as paddy fields, religious establishments, offices and schools were located close to the zero line, outside the proposed fence, erection of the fence would create immense hardships for them.

Singh’s visit would be followed by bilateral discussions with Bangladesh for its consent in relaxing the 150-yard norm for erecting fences.

Though Singh refused to interact with reporters during the visit, Tripura joint secretary (home) B.K. Acharjee said, “The Centre’s priority is to ensure early completion of the fencing to prevent infiltration and trans-border movement of undesirable elements.”

He, however, added that unless the Union home ministry came forward with adequate compensation for the people already displaced and those who are going to be displaced, it would be difficult to convince people living along the border to shift and ensure smooth erection of the fence.