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The Government of Assam today releases a White Paper on the burning issue of illegal immigration from neighbouring country Bangladesh, and promised that concrete steps would be taken to update the National Registrar of Citizen (NRC).
Releasing the white paper, Assam Chief Minister Mr. Tarun Gogoi said, ‘Infiltration is not as alarming as some quarters would like to project. We are also concerned, but it is not as grave as many would like the outside world to believe.’ ‘The Bangladeshi issue is not as major an issue as some would like to claim. Even the Election Commission has found after repeated extensive revision of electoral rolls very limited foreigners,’ he added.
He maintained that the Election Commission is the competent authority for detecting foreigners and it has been engaged to ensure no foreigner enjoy voting rights by undertaking extensive revision of voters’ list in the state several times.
According to the Chief Minister, the state had other issues, like education, health, unemployment, clean drinking water, etc, that were the priority for the state government and ‘Bangladeshi issue is not the number one problem in the state’.
‘Economic development must be our focus. The foreigners’ issue will come on top if our cultural and national identity is threatened, which has not happened yet,’ Mr. Gogoi added.
He, however, affirmed that the government will not tolerate a single foreigner in the state and listed out the various steps being taken for detection and deportation of illegal foreigners.
Since 1985, a total of 4, 52,667 cases of suspected foreigners have been registered in the state, of which 1, 84,275 cases have been disposed. Out of these, 61,774 foreigners have been detected, of which 32,537 cannot be deported since they came in the period 1966-71 (people who entered during this period cannot be deported but do not enjoy voting rights by default).
Of the remaining 29,237 declared foreigners, only 2442 have been deported so far. The chief minister admitted that the deportation record has been poor and cited the absence of any deportation or expatriation treaty with Bangladesh as the major impediment.
‘Bangladesh refuse to acknowledge that these foreigners are their citizens and even talk about involving a neutral party in settling these citizenship issues,’ he said. Mr. Gogoi admitted further that a host of issues are there in detecting and deporting the foreigners and the government will also analysis these factors and come out with lasting solutions.
“But the problem continues and we have to take immediate steps to stop the immigration problem. We are going to be very strict and update the NRC as well as photo identity cards”, Gogoi told reporters after releasing the White Paper.
“There are only three detention centers at Kokrajhar, Silchar and Goalpara where the suspected migrants are housed, but security around that areas have to be strengthened,” Gogoi said.
“We are going to ensure that the agitation against illegal migrants is not wasted. Strict steps will be taken to ensure that the state gets rid of illegal migrants”, he added.
He pointed that the immigration issue must be viewed in its historical perspective, when migration had taken place for economic factors. ‘The foreigners issue arose after Independence after which migrants were treated as foreigners. Our governments have been trying to check infiltration over the years,’ he added.
Mr. Gogoi claimed that infiltration has come down over the years as can be gauged from the narrowing gap between Assam’s decadal population growth rate and the all-India rate.
He also criticized the Opposition BJP and Asom Gana Parishad(AGP), claiming that they had failed to take any concrete steps to check influx or detect and deport foreigners when in power.
The chief minister elaborated the measures being taken to seal the international border, including fencing, night lighting and border out-posts.