Illegal Immigration

The issue of flow of illegal migrants into India from Bangladesh has been an irritant in the relationship between India and Bangladesh. Critically examine India’s policy towards illegal migrants and the impact of this issue on affected states of India. (200 Words)

Illegal immigration from Bangladesh has been a long standing dispute between India and Bangladesh. According to some estimate, there are close to 20-30 million illegal Bangladeshi immigrants (IBI) in India. This has been a highly emotive issue, especially in states like Assam, and one that cannot be ignored. Accordingly, the following has been the policy response of successive Indian Governments:
  1. Illegal Migrant Determination Tribunal (IMDT). Set up in 1988 by an act of Parliament, it was tasked with the identification and deportation of IBI from Assam. But, it did not perform as expected. Considering its poor performance, the SC struck down the law in 2005.
  2. Assam Accord – All persons who crossed over from Bangladesh after 1971 are to be deported.
  3. India tried talking to successive Bangladeshi governments but not very successful. One of the biggest hurdles in deportation of IBI is Bangladesh‘s consistent denial that its citizens are illegally crossing the border.
  4. Border fencing and a push back policy. However, this measure has also not been fully effective as many areas remain unfenced on account of delayed land acquisition and non-resolution of boundary disputes. In this contest, LBA is a progressive step.
  5. Both the countries signed in 2011, a joint Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP). However, the laxity in border patrolling displayed by Bangladeshi border guards has diluted the impact of this initiative.
  6. India has installed thousands of kilometers of barbed wire and floodlights, and its Border Security Force (BSF) even adopted a controversial ―shoot-on sight policy to deter those who might cross illegally. Since this only resulted in the number of people being killed, government adopted ―non-lethal‖ strategy in 2011, through an agreement.
The influx of IBI into India has had the following consequences:
  1. Ever increasing social and ethnic conflict. This will result in increasing instances of violence in NE.
  2. This has now become a political problem and has contributed to the identity politics in these states.
  3. There is an increasing change in the demography of the region and the inhabitants fear that they will be reduced to a minority in their own land.
  4. Illegal trade and illegal drug trafficking across the border has threatened the safety and security of the region.
  5. Arms and human trafficking has increased due to illegal immigrants.
  6. The increasing population has added pressures to the already overburdened administrative structures.
  7. Loss of job opportunities for the locals.
  8. Encroachment of areas around deltas forests lands and tribal areas
  9. Immigrants mostly engage in agricultural work and do not pay taxes, thus hardly contributing to government revenue.
In this light, a lasting solution will require dialogue. Indian needs to take Bangladesh onboard for dealing with this problem. Bilateral binding agreements should be made for curbing illegal migration. For this, the goodwill earned by the recent ratification of the LBA will help.
[Latest – government is looking into suggestion by 2 NGOs that immigrants from Bangladesh who are Hindus or any other religion who are crossing the border due to fear of religious persecution should be given citizenship status in India]



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