Ex-enclave people to be made voters ‘in 3 months’

Data collection to begin on July 10
Election Commission to enroll people of ex-enclaves as voters withing three months. Photo: STAR FILE

The Election Commission (EC) has worked out a plan to enroll the people of ex-enclaves as voters within three months in addition to providing them with national identity (NID) cards gradually.

A seven-day data collection drive to this end will begin on July 10 next in the former 111 Indian enclaves that became parts of Bangladesh’s mainland after the exchange of 162 enclaves between Bangladesh and India on July 31 midnight in 2015.

“The door-to-door campaign for data collection in the former enclaves will be carried out from July 10 to 16,” EC Secretary Md Sirazul Islam said.

But the Commission, he said, will start the preparatory works on June 15 for enlisting the people of the ex-enclaves in the voter list.

After collecting the information of the ex-enclave dwellers, their biometric data, including fingerprints and photographs, will be taken in phases, the EC Secretary said. “The entire process of making them voters will complete within the next 2-3 months,” he said.

Asked about the fate of those people who have already become voters from another location hiding the identity of enclave dwellers, the EC secretary said they can transfer their voting addresses during the EC’s drive.

The EC’s move came after the home ministry on April 11 last published a gazette notification providing a total of 37,535 enclave dwellers with Bangladeshi citizenship in line with the Citizenship Act 1951.

Some two-thirds of the 37,535 people are above 18 and eligible to be voters.

As per the EC’s statistics, now there are nearly 100 million voters in the country.

Earlier on July 30, 2015, the land ministry published a gazette notification including the 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh territory, and excluding 51 Bangladeshi enclaves.

The EC could not enroll Bangladeshi nationals residing in the 51 enclaves adversely located within the Indian territories despite its several efforts since 2008 as the home and foreign ministries did not give clearance saying that the issue of exchanging enclaves between the two neighbouring countries was under active consideration.

Following the ratification of LBA by Indian Loka Sabha and Rajya Sabha unanimously in May 2015, the LBA was implemented from the midnight of July 31, 2015 ending the decade-old sufferings of the people living in enclaves on both sides of Bangladesh and India.

Under the agreement, India exchanged 111 enclaves measuring 17,160 acres to Bangladesh and received 51 enclaves covering 7,110 acres. The enclaves’ people had option to choose the citizenship of either Bangladesh or India.

The 111 ex-Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh include 12 in Kurigram, 59 in Lalmonirhat, four in Nilphamari and 36 in Panchagarh, whereas all 51 ex-Bangladeshi enclaves are located in Cooch Behar of India.