Agartala: The Tripura government and a Lok Sabha member from the state have once again urged the central government to take steps to repatriate the 35,000 tribal refugees to Mizoram, officials said here Saturday.
Lok Sabha member from Tripura and former rural development and industries minister Jitendra Chaudhury raised the issue in the Lok Sabha Friday and demanded their immediate repatriation to Mizoram.
About 35,000 Reang tribals are sheltered in seven camps located in north Tripura for 17 years after they fled their villages in western Mizoram following clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official.
"The Tripura government has been repeatedly asking the central government to repatriate the refugees to Mizoram, but the response especially from Mizoram is very poor," Tripura`s relief and revenue department secretary Swapan Saha told reporters.
He said: "The union home ministry has constituted a seven-member committee, headed by the ministry`s additional secretary Rajiv Gauba to oversee the living conditions of the refugees in the Tripura camps."
The central committee, comprising officials of human resource development ministry, social justice and empowerment ministry, Tripura government and representatives of three NGOs from New Delhi, West Bengal and Assam, will submit its report to the home ministry and the Tripura High Court by Sep 12.
The central team was constituted following a directive from the Tripura High Court, which passed an order June 24 after a lawyer filed a writ petition before it.
"The central team will visit the refugee camps before Aug 31 and supervise the sanitation, health, educational and other facilities there," Saha added.
Meanwhile, talking to IANS over phone from New Delhi, Chaudhury said: "There were several initiatives to repatriate the refugees from Tripura to Mizoram but those failed due to lack of proper political will of both the central and the state governments. Only sporadic repatriation of a handful of families have taken place."
Only about 5,000 Reang tribal refugees, locally called "Bru", have returned to their homes in the past three-and-a-half years.
Chaudhury said: "Though the families are surviving on two square meals and other minimum physical needs, extended by the central and Tripura governments, a permanent solution to the ethnic issue is needed so they can enjoy a better life.
Chaudhury, a senior tribal leader, also demanded economic settlement of the refugees after their repatriation.
An official of the Tripura relief department said the refugee leaders had told Supreme Court`s Special Commissioner Harsh Mander that they will return to their villages if the Mizoram government provides them security and livelihood.