The Border Security Force (BSF) has proposed a "no-habitation zone" of 150 yards along the long Indo-Bangla border in West Bengal, Meghalaya, and Tripura so it can effectively manage it and stop illegal infiltration. Currently 145 villages with 13,650 houses with 89,000 people in these states block 45.45 kilometers of the fencing that the BSF undertaken and thereby rendering the effort useless. The Home Ministry wants the fencing work to complete by the end of the year.
The BSF's plan is to relocate these villages so infiltration and trans-border crossing can be stopped immediately. Ethnically and genetically, Indians and Bangladeshis living on either side of the border are indistinguishable since the partition itself was farcical. A similar arrangement was created along the Indo-Pakistan border in Punjab and Rajasthan and border residents have been given special identity cards that would greatly help the Army and paramilitary forces to identify the individual. Since many terrorist groups operating in the north east work out of Bangladesh and the government there refuse to cooperate, BSF says that this is the only way to stop infiltration and ex-filtration of terrorists.
The Home Ministry has already sent the plan to the concerned states for input. However, since these states are densely populated, the lack of equivalent land to compensate them for the loss may be a stumbling block. Already, several non-government organizations have opposed fencing in some parts of the Jayantia Hills and West Khasi Hills.
The government is also expecting major opposition because most of these villages live off the large scale illegal trading that goes largely unreported. Hence, individuals buy goods at cheaper prices from Bangladesh for daily consumption and sell Indian goods at a premium in Bangladesh. The BSF says that such concerns can be handled through a "smart cards" which will contain personal information of residents so the residents would be able to go through the border at appropriate places without a passport with impunity. If the government should sanction this approach, it would essentially legitimize the illegal trade.
Even if the government decides to look the other way on the illegal trade, it will still need to address the compensatory land issue. One approach may be to create looping fences on the India side of the villages so their movement into India can be controlled, the villages do not need to be moved, and hence the issue of compensatory land does not need to be dealt with. However, there needs to be strong customs and contraband checking measures before allowing these villagers to go through the fence and into India and strict controls on who from the rest of India go through the fence to the villages