New Delhi: The government on Wednesday, citing inputs available with it, told the Rajya Sabha that about two crore Bangladesh immigrants are staying illegally in India. "There are reports of Bangladeshi nationals having entered the country without valid travel documents.
Since entry of such Bangladeshi nationals into the country is clandestine and surreptitious, it is not possible to have accurate data of such Bangladeshi nationals living in the various parts of the country. As per available inputs, there are around 20 million illegal Bangladeshi migrants staying in the India," Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju said in written reply to a question posed by Rajya Sabha MP Jharna Das Baidya.
The 20 million estimate far surpasses the figure of 1,20,53,950 cited by then minister of state for home Sriprakash Jaiswal in 2004 but withdrawn three days later after the BJP demanded that these 12 lakh illegal Bangladeshi immigrants be identified and deported.
Jaiswal had, in reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha dated July 15, 2004, said that 1,20,53,950 illegal Bangladeshi migrants were residing in 17 states and Union territories as on December 31, 2001. He also stated that Assam alone accounted for 50 lakh Bangladeshi squatters.
However, after the figure generated much political heat, particularly in Assam, Jaiswal did an about-turn and withdrew the reply days later, saying that the figure of Bangladeshi migrants cited by him was based on unreliable reports and mere hearsay.
However, a Union minister on Wednesday said it was a conscious decision on part of the Modi government to highlight the 20 million estimate of illegal Bangladeshi migrants residing in India. "Unlike UPA, we won't be easily cowed down by pressure to deny the figure as 'hearsay'," said the minister.
Incidentally, Rijiju's reply does not dwell on any definite strategy of the government to identify and deport the 20 million illegal Bangladeshi migrants. "Deportation of illegally staying foreign nationals is continuous process. The powers of identification, detention and deportation of illegal foreign nationals including Bangladeshi nationals have been delegated to the state governments and Union territories under Section 3(2)(c) of the Foreigners Act, 1946," he stated.
Incidentally, BJP is in power in Assam, the state with the highest incidence of illegal immigration from Bangladesh. Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal had, after coming to power in May this year, declared his intent to update the national register of citizens (NRC) in Assam and seal Indo-Bangladesh border in the state in 2 years.