Phansidewa: Farmers of the Phansidewa block of West Bengal have appealed to the central government to not sign an agreement for the sharing of waters from two rivers- the Teesta and the Feni, with Bangladesh.
Farmers said that if water is passed onto Bangladesh, then they would face a water crisis, leading to a loss in agricultural production.
These rivers originate from the Himalayas, flowing through India and Bangladesh and finally into the Bay of Bengal.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was recently on a two-day official visit to Bangladesh along with an Indian delegation for cementing ties with that nation.
On his visit, Singh signed a series of agreements, although they failed to resolve their main disputes over transit rights for India and the sharing of waters of certain trans-national rivers.
"Right now, we feel that the water of the Teesta should not be given to Bangladesh on a greater basis, as has been the news in the Prime Minister’s (Manmohan Singh) recent visit to Bangladesh. The amount of water, which we need here, is already not enough, and on top of that if more water is passed to Bangladesh, then we will incur more loss," said Bidhan Das, a farmer.
Farmers expressed their discontent with the present proposals of water sharing between the two countries and urged the government to come out with a proposal in which nobody incurs a loss.
"The fact that 54 percent of the Teesta water would be given to Bangladesh and 46 percent would be given to India is not satisfactory. The 46 percent of water in our share is not enough. So, if 54 percent is given to them, then we won’t be able to sustain in the 46 percent. It will become impossible for us to sustain in that case," said Abdul Samat, another farmer.
However, the agreement for sharing of the waters of the River Teesta and the River Feni was put off after West Bengal government refused to concur with the proposals.
Bangladesh and India signed a comprehensive framework agreement on bilateral cooperation, a protocol on land boundaries, memoranda of understanding on renewable energy and conservation of the Sunderbans mangroves.
An addendum was also signed to facilitate overland transit to Nepal so Bangladesh can transport goods to the land-locked Himalayan state using a small portion of Indian land.
India also agreed to allow duty-free access to 46 types of garments from Bangladesh to the Indian markets, with immediate effect, which Bangladeshi businessmen termed a long-awaited achievement.
Dhaka has contended that the deal may not be possible if India did not sign the pact on sharing of River Teesta and Feni.
The two countries have struggled to establish good ties ever since India helped its eastern neighbour to emerge as independent Bangladesh in 1971 from what was then East Pakistan.
Ties have also suffered over recent years because of Indian worries that Islamist militants were using Bangladesh as a base for anti-Indian crusades.
Bilateral trade has grown steadily but remains heavily in India’s favour, with the gap widening, causing concern in Bangladesh where business lobbies are asking for the removal of both tariff and non-tariff barriers.