For years, people have believed that the ostrich has the habit of plunging its head in the sand at the approach of enemies or whenever it encounters an adverse situation. We know now that this is a myth without substance. However, there has been no dearth of human ostriches in Assam who have acquired the fine art of refusing to see a problem staring them in the face and of doing nothing about such problems. The large-scale illegal immigration of Bangladeshis is a major case in point to show how some politicians and bureaucrats can ignore a problem facing their State to the extent of even making money out of a major crisis. The large-scale illegal immigration from Bangladesh to India has been going on for over half-a-century. But no one in the administration—neither political executives nor the bureaucracy—felt the need to do anything about it at all. As a result, the number of post-1971 illegal migrants from Bangladesh to various States of the Northeast is of the order of 12 million now. Even today, there are more than 1.78 lakh cases still pending before the foreigners’ tribuls. Meanwhile, more than 40,000 persons, declared as foreigners by the tribuls are reported missing. For decades together, neither the Centre nor the State government did anything about a problem that was known to one and all. During Congress regimes, no one even spoke of the problem, though Tarun Gogoi now pretends that his government of 15 years was the most concerned about the problem. The first sign of awareness of the problem came during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s NDA government. In April 2000, the NDA government set up a Group of Ministers (GoM) comprising the then Union Home Minister L. K. Advani, the then Defence Minister George Ferndes, the then Exterl Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and the then Fince Minister Yashwant Sinha to study the implications of such large-scale illegal migration to the country’s security and to suggest measures. In its report, the GoM emphasized the grave threat to the tion posed by the large-scale immigration from Bangladesh and suggested a series of measures to deal with the problem. Talking about the impact of large-scale illegal immigration to the entire country, the report of the GoM said, “We have yet to fully wake up to the implications of the unchecked immigration for the tiol security. We have about 15 million Bangladeshis, 2.2 million Nepalese, 70,000 Sri Lankan Tamils and about one lakh Tibetan migrants living in India. Demographic changes have been brought about in the border belts of West Bengal, several districts in Bihar, Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya as a result of large-scale illegal migration. Even States like Delhi, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have been affected... Such large-scale migration has obvious social, economic, political and security implications. There is an all-round failure in India to come to grips with the problem of illegal migration. Unfortutely, action on this subject invariably assumes commul overtones with political parties taking positions to suit the interest of their vote banks... The massive illegal immigration poses a grave danger to our security, social harmony and economic well being.”
Even the need to set up a GoM about half-a-century after the large-scale illegal immigration from Bangladesh and elsewhere ought to have raised several questions that no one raised. The first, of course, could be on the need for setting up GoMs for all kinds of issues that need not have cropped up if the administrative machinery were working efficiently. In India, these are often set up because some vital section of the administration has not been functioning as expected or have become completely non-functiol. The second could be why the setting up of a GoM was put off until about half-a-century after the large-scale illegal immigration began. Why did the government fail to see what everyone in the State or the region was able to see: that there was some serious mischief going on that actually encouraged large-scale illegal immigration for the creation of huge illegal vote banks? The question that should have been asked decades ago is: While large-scale illegal immigration is easy when a country keeps one intertiol border porous and totally open at places, how is it possible to get the mes of the illegal migrants on the electoral roll so fast, when it is so difficult even for Indian citizens to get their mes on the voters’ list? Even now, since the task of actually pushing back illegal migrants to Bangladesh or Nepal is so difficult, the government could start with the much easier task of disfranchising all the illegal migrants. Ironically enough, though, the easiest task has been made the most difficult by the same powerful lobby of politicians and bureaucrats that had made the task of getting the mes of illegal migrants into the voters’ list so magically swift. What the simple citizen must keep in mind is that the endgame is called power without performance. The equations are really quite simple. Voters are being asked to vote without silly questions about performance. And if they are unwilling to vote blindly, the Bangladeshi vote bank is always there. These people are so beholden to the ones who ebled their migration to India that they are not going to ask silly questions about the performance of an election candidate. They are going to vote for the person chosen by their maatabbar. And if anyone imagines that politicians alone are responsible for all this, they are sadly mistaken. A politician is in a position of power for five or ten years. A bureaucrat is in power for at least 33 years. We keep forgetting that they have to work in tandem. And since there is no provision of punishments for top bureaucrats in India, a top bureaucrat can get away with murder. And handing over the land of his birth to illegal migrants is deemed to be a lesser crime than murder.