Zero line fencing on Indo-Bangla border a boon to shop-owners

The Bangladesh government's recent decision to allow India to erect barbed wire fencing along the zero line has saved the shop-owners in Mohanpur market, near the international border, a lot of trouble.

They were asked to relocate by the BSF as the market falls within the 150 yards of the international border. There are many such markets along the border in Tripura.
As per the Indira-Mujib pact of 1972, no permanent structure can be built within the 150 yards of the border.

In 1975, a guideline for the management of the 4000-km-long Indo-Bangla border was formulated by the two countries which also agreed not to construct any permanent structure within the 150-yard limit.

Similarly, many schools and public buildings in several villages also fell within this demarcation. "Following India's request, the Bangladesh government has agreed to allow construction of fencing on Zero-Line in some parts of the state," Tripura Home Secretary Manoj Kumar said.

Fencing in the Sabroom sub-division of South Tripura district, which was suspended for quite some time following objections from the Bangladesh Border Guards, would be started soon, he said.

While fencing on the Zero Line at Mohanpur in West Tripura district and Kailashahar in the newly-formed Unakoti district had almost been completed, work at Kamalasagar in Sipahijala district and Belonia in South Tripura district would be started soon.

The state government had identified some areas where erection of fencing 150 yards away from Zero Line would not be feasible and as such approached the Centre to seek permission from Bangladesh.

About 75 per cent of the 856-km Indo-Bangla border in Tripura has so far been completed and the remaining part would be completed by the end of this year, BSF sources said.

"The fencing has come up at the Zero Line. Illegal trade and cross-border crimes have reduced. We are doing good business," Sujit Modak, a trader in the Mohanpur Market, said.

There have been some problems in the erection of fencing on certain stretches of the border due to existence of low-lying areas and human habitations within the 150 yards of the border, said a BSF official.

The Indo-Bangla border is marked by a high degree of porosity and checking illegal cross-border activities has been a major challenge, the official says. Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar had told the Assembly recently that erection of border fencing on the zero line was extremely necessary to protect many government installations, markets, roads and human habitations.

He points out that the Agartala airport, many tourist places, temples, markets and sub-divisional towns are situated within the 150 yards from the zero line of the border.

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