R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Feb 1 – The Government of India is concerned about the reports of encroachment of reserved forests by suspected foreign nationals and a high-level probe may soon be ordered in this regard.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is exploring the possibility of deploying floating Border Outposts (BOPs) to prevent infiltration through the vulnerable riverine international border.
Highly placed sources in the MHA told The Assam Tribune that the Centre received inputs about encroachment of reserved forests of Assam by suspected foreign nationals, which is a matter of serious concern. “One can understand the fact that tribals and Adivasi people have been staying in the forests for years. But if foreigners have encroached the forests, it is a matter of serious concern, “ sources added.
Sources pointed out that deportation of foreigners from some other states of the country picked up in recent times, but in case of Assam, there have been reports that foreign nationals even managed to obtain land pattas. That is why, the Centre is thinking of probing into the matter to ascertain whether the reports of encroachment of forests by suspected nationals are true and whether foreigners managed to obtain land patta.
On steps initiated to check influx of foreigners, sources said that the sealing of the land border between Assam and Bangladesh is almost complete. The Centre has also deployed one battalion of the Border Security Force (BSF) along the Assam-Bangladesh border and one in Meghalaya-Bangladesh border. The Government of India is also planning to deploy two floating BOPs along the riverine international border, which is considered the most vulnerable.
MHA sources pointed out that the idea of deploying floating BOPs was mooted long back but at that time, the Khaleda Zia-led Government in the neighbouring country did not allow the BOPs to be brought into Assam through the territory of the neighbouring country. The Government of India has decided to take up the issue again with the Government of Bangladesh.
“We are hopeful that the present Government would allow us to bring in the floating BOPs to Assam. But even if that is not allowed, the Government of India will take steps to assemble it in Assam,” sources added.
On the slow progress of electrification of the fencing along the international border, sources said that installation of the poles and electric lines would not take time. But it is for the concerned State Governments to ensure regular supply of power, source added.
MHA sources said that the Centre has already released funds for updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and with the Supreme Court monitoring the progress, the work should be completed on time. The Supreme Court has also asked the Gauhati High Court to appoint presiding officers for the new Foreigners Tribunals. The Centre has also assured that funds would not be a hurdle in the way of updating the NRC and setting up of new foreigners tribunals.