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Govt admits to Bangla infiltration, but reveals no numbers

Govt admits to Bangla infiltration, but reveals no numbers

Author: Political Bureau
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: February 20, 2009

Introduction: Says Clandestine Nature Of The Activity Makes It Difficult To Quantify The Problem

Even as the government accepts that illegal infiltration from Bangladesh is a reality and may have altered the demographic profile of some border districts, it has refused to quantify the extent of the problem citing its "clandestine" nature.

"India's long and porous border with Bangladesh, geographical proximity, family ties and ethnic similarity, coupled with better economic opportunities in India have resulted in illegal migration from Bangladesh," Union minister of state for home Sriprakash Jaiswal said in reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha. He, however, conveniently added that it was not possible to indicate the exact number of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants who may have crossed over surreptitiously.

Ironically, it was Mr Jaiswal himself who had told the same House on July 15, 2004 that "1,20,53,950 illegal Bangladeshi migrants were residing in 17 states and union territories as on December 31, 2001." In fact, he said that Assam alone accounted for 50 lakh Bangladeshi squatters. Of course, he did an about-turn a couple of days later, withdrawing the reply - which had generated much political heat in Assam - and stating the data on Bangladeshi infiltrators shared by him with Parliament was "unreliable" and based on "mere hearsay."

Even as Mr Jaiswal skipped the issue of Bangladeshi infiltration on Wednesday, he confirmed that enough Bangladeshis may have crossed over to impact the demographic character of the border districts. "Given the clandestine nature of the activity, the possibility of demographic changes in some of the border districts cannot be ruled out," he conceded.

This only confirms the submission made by then Assam governor, Lt Gen (retd) S K Sinha, in his report to the President in 1998, that the unchecked infiltration of Bangladeshis into the state had changed the demographic profile of several border districts and could one day lead to severing of the north-eastern region from the mainland.

In reply to another question in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, Union minister of state for home Shakeel Ahmad said some illegal immigrants from Bangladesh also reportedly obtained ration cards through fraudulent means. He however added that when such instances were detected, the concerned state governments cancelled the ration cards and took other appropriate action.

Mr Jaiswal, in fact, did not rule out the involvement of Bangladeshi illegal immigrants in crimes and illegal activities. Some of them, he said, were linked to Bangladeshi terror outfit Huji.

According to Mr Jaiswal, some Bangladeshi citizens who came on valid travel documents, had also overstayed in India. In 2005, of the 4,85,640 Bangladeshis who entered the country legally, 12,338 went missing. In 2006, 24,497 Bangladeshis overstayed their visa period, while this number stood at 25,712 in 2007.

According to Mr Jaiswal, the government had a multi-pronged strategy to tackle illegal immigration from Bangladesh. This included border fencing, round-the-clock border surveillance, increasing the number of border outposts to 1,185 and induction of high-tech surveillance equipment like night vision devices.

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