R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Feb 21 – The Centre has made it clear that Assam would not have to take additional burden of any Bangladeshi national if the land swap deal between India and Bangladesh is implemented. The Centre also assured that a series of steps have been initiated to deal with the problem of infiltration of Bangladeshi nationals and all genuine Indian citizens would be given photo identity cards after completion of the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Talking to The Assam Tribune, Joint Secretary (North East) of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Sambhu Singh pointed out that all the enclaves to be swapped if the land swap deal is implemented, are in West Bengal and there is no reason for Assam to take the burden of any Bangladeshi national. He said the total population of the enclaves is around 54,000 and if those are swapped, the people living in those areas would be given the option to decide whether they would like to stay where they are or shift to their country of origin. Among the population in the Indian enclaves in Bangladesh, only around 3,500 people have expressed their desire to come over to India and that is the only additional burden of population India would have to take.
On the other hand, Singh said that a series of steps have been initiated to deal with the problem of infiltration of foreigners into Assam. As the international riverine border is considered to be the most vulnerable, the government is planning to deploy three floating border outposts in the area for ensuring proper vigil. He said the BOPs would be assembled in the river Brahmaputra itself as earlier, the Government of Bangladesh had opposed the move to bring in the same through that country.
Singh revealed that the government has decided to issue photo identity cards to genuine Indian citizens living in Assam immediately after completion of the process of updating the NRC. He said that around Rs 498 crore would be required for completion of the job and the Centre has already released Rs 140 crore. He said money would not be a problem in completing the process and the Centre would provide required funds whenever necessary. He called upon the people of Assam to be vigilant during the process of updating the NRC and pointed out that the land records or allotments after 1971 would not be taken as valid documents. If any person provides post-1971 documents and claims that he/she came from other parts of India, his/her ancestry would be verified by the state government concerned before his or her name is included in the NRC. Similarly, the land documents of the forests would not be accepted as valid proof of citizenship, he added.
The MHA official admitted that deportation of foreigners from India is a difficult task as the suspects never give their correct original addresses and the Bangladesh authorities cannot verify the same to accept such people as their nationals. He said that last year, around one thousand Bangladeshi nationals were repatriated legally after completion of all formalities and so far this year, the process for sending back around 800 Bangladeshis has started.
On the issue of installation of floodlights along the border fencing, the MHA official said the Centre is in touch with the state governments concerned on the matter. He pointed out that it is the responsibility of the state governments concerned to provide electricity for the same and generator sets can only be used as back-up.