If Mamata Banerjee went uninvited recently to Bangladesh, she has in a span of a couple of months decided to ride piggyback with the Prime Minister and no less. While the sharing of Teesta waters still remains a non-starter, Modi has the Land Boundary Agreement to flaunt though Dhaka is yet to react officially to the recent developments in Parliament. At another remove, the 190 children languishing in 22 homes run by the West Bengal government will hopefully heave a collective sigh of relief over the state government’s horribly belated decision to hand them over to their families across the border. Remarkably bizarre has been the reason for their confinement. The children have been detained here for faults of their parents now in correctional homes and cannot therefore be classified as delinquents by any interpretation of the rule-book.
The parents have been guilty of flouting the law, including crossing of the border. Yet it reflects poorly on the jail administration if 500 prisoners whose jail terms have ended are made to languish behind bars. Altogether, both the parent and the child are victims of a conscious violation of human rights. The government takes recourse to a facile alibi when it cites "technical reasons" without being explicit. The children ought to be set free before the Chief Minister turns up at the check-in counter. It will surely rank as an achievement to package before the authorities in Dhaka, indeed a mark of progress that affords a ray of hope to families across the border.
While Banerjee might win certain brownie points on the children’s issue, closely intertwined is the release of their parents, specifically the 500 adults who have served their terms. What exactly is holding up their release? This is a very obvious query that Banerjee is likely to countenance in Bangladesh. She has made herself vulnerable to the charge that her government has moved sluggishly. There is little doubt that the state has responded only after repeated prodding by the Bangladesh High Commission, most importantly after the recent meeting on the eve of the Prime Minister’s visit. Well may the Chief Minister have taken credit if her government had in place institutional safeguards to avoid such excesses.
That though is not the case. In short, it is only the timing of the reunion that lends the cross-over a symbolic value. Sympathy for the children ought not to have been linked to the tour programme of a peripatetic Prime Minister, this time with Bengal’s CM in tow. But politicians will do anything for a headline, or a photo opportunity; who really cares if children are made the victims once again?