Guwahati, March 9 (IANS) Believe it or not, the Indian government spends an astounding Rs.424,000 to formally detect and push back an illegal Bangladeshi migrant from Assam.
Assam spent Rs.410 million between January 2001 and December 2009 in identifying 33,922 foreigners, of whom just 174 could be deported back to Bangladesh.
‘This is true that the cost is enormous in detecting and then pushing back an illegal migrant…cost incurred by police and expenditure by tribunals,’ Minister for Assam Accord Implementation Bhumidhar Barman told the state assembly Tuesday.
The influx of illegal migrant workers from Bangladesh is a major problem across the northeast, resulting in frequent clashes between border guards of the two countries.
No official figures are available of the number of illegal migrants staying in Assam, who sneak in taking advantage of the unfenced border. However, estimates vary from one million to 10 million.
Assam had witnessed a six-year long anti-foreigners’ agitation from 1979, spearheaded by the powerful All Assam Students Union (AASU), culminating in the Assam Accord of 1985.
Under the accord, March 1971 was taken as the cut-off date – anybody entering India after that would be detected and deported. But so far just 1,428 Bangladeshis have been pushed back since 1985.
‘This is a shame on the part of the government to have spent a fortune in the name of hounding Bangladeshis, but the end result is a big zero,’ Keshab Mahanta, a lawmaker of the opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), said in reply to the minister.
Assam shares a 272-km border with Bangladesh, of which about 85 percent has been fenced with barbed wires. Concrete pillars separate the remaining stretch of the border. The entire border is expected to be fenced by the year-end.
There are fears that the unabated influx of Bangladeshis would soon overwhelm the indigenous Assamese. Bangladesh denies allegations that it encourages people to enter India illegally.
The tardy pace of detection and deportation was earlier blamed on the controversial Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act (IMDT). The Supreme Court in July 2005 struck down the legislation citing major flaws and replaced it with the Foreigners Act of 1946.
The IMDT Act was enacted to identify illegal Bangladeshis in 1985 during the height of AASU’s oust-Bangladeshi movement.
Under the Foreigners Act, 32 tribunals were set up to speed up the process of detection of illegal Bangladeshis.
‘There are no judges in 13 of the tribunals and hence we are having difficulties in the entire process,’ Barman said
‘No matter how many legislations you have, the process of identifying and proving beyond doubt that someone is an illegal foreigner is an arduous task. Moreover, it is always very difficult to distinguish a Bangladeshi from an Assamese as they resemble very much the same and in the border areas they speak the same dialect,’ said a police officer.
Another problem is related to deportation once someone is proved to be an illegal migrant. Once he is taken to the border and pushed back, Bangladeshi frontier guards invariably force him to re-enter India.
‘It is true that some of those pushed back by us entered India once again using a different border route,’ the minister said.