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BSF's whimsical restrictions 'challenging' life, livelihood of West Bengal border villagers

Counterview Desk 

In a representation to the additional chief secretary, Home and Hill Affairs Department, Government of West Bengal, a senior civil rights leader, protesting against the prohibitory order by the Border Security Force (BSF) on the farmers of Chaingor, Asmanhat and Matiadob villages, situated next to the borders with Bangladesh, has said that the action is causing a loss of Rs 1.80 crore of earnings to the villagers.
Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), said, the unethical way in which BSF has stopped the farmers to harvest maize and jute would adversely affect their livelihood and they would be forced to migrate to seek alternative income opportunities. "Ultimately, this is a loss to the state agri-production", he added.

Text:

I’m writing this mail for your immediate attention to the situation where the farmers of Chaingor, Asmanhat, and Matiadob, under Chaingar Gram Panchayat, Police Station and Block Hemtabad whose livelihood is at stake because of the unethical restriction by the BSF BOP Chaingar 175 Battalion D Company.
The villagers from the Chaingar, Asmanhat, and Matiadob, have to use border gates 35, 36, and 37, respectively, to access their farmland, nearly 1500 bighas which is outside of the border fence. This land is ideal for harvesting jute and corn, the most profitable crops. In aggregate, the village loses nearly Rs.1.80 crore of earnings, which can well pay off for their economic upliftment.
On 5th November 2022, the SDO during inspection at the village had conveyed the people to lodge a complaint to the DM Uttar Dinajpur, about their ongoing issue along with others like Bangladeshi miscreants loot their farm produce, irregularity in the opening of border gate by BSF.
On 14th November 2022, villagers submitted a mass petition to the DM, Uttar Dinajpur which he on 24th November 2022, then instructed the Commandant, 175 Bn, BSF Khagra Camp, Khagra, Bihar to take necessary steps to sort out the disputed issue in discussion with villagers and copy of the same forwarded to SDO, Raiganj, Uttar Dinajpur. In earlier, the SDO Raiganj assured the villagers that they can harvest jute and corn at the inside periphery of the border fence but on the other side he will let them know that communication is yet to be.
On 4th December 2022, at 10.30 am in Chingarh BOP, a meeting occurred with the presence of the villagers, the panchayat - pradhan & its members and the Company Commander Mr. Suvasish Sinha. The Company Commander in his authoritative voice, claimed to have a letter of the DM, Uttar Dinajpur, on the prohibition of harvesting jute and corn within 300 meters on either side of the border fence. While he failed to produce of the order to the villagers.
On 5th December 2022, dissatisfied with the outcome of the meeting, villagers collectively wrote to the DM, Uttar Dinajpur, Uttar Dinajpur about the order to be made publicly for authenticity, otherwise they will move to the judiciary. Later, the DM, Uttar Dinajpur, instructed the BDO Hemtabad to have a meeting with the villagers in which BDO assured them, will take necessary actions to restrict BSF about their actions on the local populace.
On 22nd December 2022, at 2 pm at Hemtabad BDO, SDO Raiganj, BLRO Hemtabad, OC of Hemtabad PS, and Commanding Officer of the BSF had a meeting with the presence of 150 villagers from Chainagar 1 Gram Panchayat - where villagers from Paharpur, Mohisagaon, Makorhat, Santara, Dharampur, Matiadob, Asmanhat, and Chainagar were present. During the meeting the Commanding Officer who claimed to have a copy of an order from the West Bengal government about the prohibition. In the meeting, those who spoke against the BSF, on the same day in the evening, BSF restricted their movements on the CPWD road.
Some of the aggrieved villagers who have land outside of the fence:
On 22nd December 2022, a letter issued to SDO copy to BDO by the agitated villagers of their issue which continues without any resolve.
These whimsical actions and arbitrary restriction imposed by the Border Security Force personnel of Poriyal Border Outposts upon the villagers of Poriyal is not only challenging their life and livelihood but also violating Article 21 and Article 19 (1) (g) and 39(a) of the Constitution of India and Article 2, Article 12, and Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 
The plight of the villagers and denial of their proper livelihood practices is against Articles 6 (Right to Work), 7 (Right to enjoyment just and favorable condition of work), 9 (Right to Social Security), and 11 (Right to Adequate Standard of living) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Articles 13 and 17 of the UN declaration on the rights of peasants and Goal No. 8 and 16 of SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) of the UN. In all these international instruments, the Government of India is a party and has taken a pledge to adhere.
I request your urgent intervention in this case by fulfilling the following demands of the villagers:
  • Farmers should allow harvesting of the land, which is the outer periphery of the border fence, and can cultivate commercial crops like jute and corn.
  • The gate should be open for 12 hours in day time during the harvesting season.
  • Villagers need to access the CPWD road.
  • Adequate support like access to drinking water and electricity should be provided at the Indian territory which is on the other side of the fence.
  • BSF should provide monetary compensation for the poles dug on private property while acquiring the land illegally and forcefully.
  • BSF authority should duly compensate villagers for the loss they are incurring due to the prohibition by the BSF for not allowing the cultivation of commercial crops like jute and corn.
  • BSF authority should duly compensate villagers for the loss they are incurring due to their ineligibility to protect them from Bangladeshi miscreants who loot their finished farm produce from the field.
  • Henceforth, farmers will not do manual work, as slavery, for BSF.
  • Villagers should be allowed to use the CPWD road which BSF can not restrict them.
  • The Government of India and the Government of West Bengal should abide by the Chapter III of the Indian Constitution where the fundamental rights of Indian citizenry are enshrined.
  • Disciplinary action should be against the BSF Company Commander and all others for imposing illegal restrictions upon the villagers and harassing them.
  • BSF should not restrict the life and livelihood of the villagers, particularly of the farmers. They should provide the villagers with all sorts of agricultural support for which they can access drinking water and electricity.
Agricultural income is the sole means of earning for the farmers. The unethical way BSF stopped them is to harvest maize and jute which will bring a stake to their livelihood either to migrate or they will seek alternative income opportunities. Ultimately, this is a loss to the state agri-production. Farmers need your help to resolve this impasse. Repeatedly, they seek your intervention for the resolution of the issue but that not happening of that them feel agitated, and frustrated. The DM, Uttar Dinajpur, is the head of the district, and the welfare of the people is one of your prime concerns, for which they informed you on 14th November 2022, and since then, no activities took place to stop this menace. My earnest request to you kindly look into the issue for an urgent resolution of the impasse where farmers live at the mercy of the frontline BSF security persons. Let me know for further information which I’m happy to provide you.

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