According to recent reports, the Union government does not have any clear information on the number of Bangladeshis who are in India by overstaying their visa deadlines. In a statement made to Parliament on Tuesday, Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister of State for Home said, “Law intercepting agencies maintain a vigil to intercept the foreigners overstaying in India. Foreigners Regiol Registration Officers (FRROs) and Bureau of Immigration and the Foreigners Registration Officers (FROs) under the State governments have been authorized to conduct special drives for identification of the overstaying foreigners in their jurisdiction and to initiate necessary legal action for their deportation.” Rijiju was replying to a question raised by MP Vishnu Dayal Ram in the Lok Sabha. However he did not give any clear picture of the number of overstaying Bangladeshis in India. In 2016, as many as 933,695 Bangladeshis were issued visas, whereas in 2017 the total number of Bangladeshis issued visas was 1,289,322. “The Central government is vested with powers to deport a foreign tiol illegally staying in the country under Section 3(2)(c) of the Foreigners Act, 1946. These powers to identify, detect and deport illegally staying foreign tiols have also been delegated to the State governments and Union Territories administrations and the Bureau of Immigration. However, the detection and deportation of such overstaying foreign citizens is a continuous process,” he added. In other words, what the minister was saying is that the Government of India is only aware of the number of visas issued to Bangladeshis in 2016 and 2017, but is clueless about the number of Bangladeshis who have overstayed their visa deadlines and remained in India. The first question that is bound to arise in the minds of even laymen is: why should a government, fully aware of the problems created by large-scale illegal immigration from Bangladesh, have issued such large numbers of visas to Bangladeshi tiols? It is not as though the Union government was uware of what is happening to States like West Bengal, Assam and Tripura as a result of the unchecked illegal immigration from Bangladesh. States like Assam are even facing the hazard of a complete demographic change as a result of such large-scale illegal immigration. Any government with the legitimate fears of the people in mind would have firmly resisted any inclitions to issue visas in such huge numbers to a neighbouring country that is responsible for major demographic changes in certain States of India. Instead of discouraging any immigration from Bangladesh, the Government of India is responsible for permitting over three million Bangladeshis to come to India with visas in 2016 and 2017. Are we expected to imagine that the Centre is uware of the millions of Bangladeshis who have also come to India without any passports or visas? Only a government totally insensitive to the legitimate fears of its people can do something as irresponsible as actually encouraging immigration from a neighbouring country that has winked at large-scale illegal migration to India for over four decades. And today the Centre is uware of how many Bangladeshis are in India with and without travel documents. Perhaps the only mollifying information relating to Bangladeshi immigration to India comes through a United tions report. It states that there are 800,000 fewer Bangladeshis in India today than in the year 2000. According to the Intertiol Migrations Report released on Monday, there were 3.9 million migrants from Bangladesh living in India in the year 2000. The figure now stands at 3.1 million migrants. While one does not normally dispute a United tions report, one cannot help questioning a statement that runs counter to all known local assessments of the number of Bangladeshi migrants in India. Besides, how can the United tions be deemed to be entirely infallible about a demographic process where the clandestine migration is far more numerous than the legal (but illegally extended) migration?
How Many Bangladeshis?