BHUBANESWAR: In the face of the ongoing furore over BJP’s pitch for nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Odisha Government is set to move the Centre for conducting the exercise in Kendrapara district to identify and deport illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
A high-level committee formed under the supervision of the Orissa High Court for taking measures to conserve the ecology of the two major wetlands of the State - Bhitarkanika National Park and Chilika - has recommended to the Home Department to seek permission from the Centre for preparation of NRC in the district.
The Committee headed by Additional Chief Secretary, Forest and Environment department with High Court-appointed Amicus Curiae Mohit Agarwal, senior administration and police officials and Collectors of the districts concerned as members took note of the presence of a large population of Bangladeshi immigrants in Bhitarkanika, whose illegal activities have endangered the existence of the wetland.
As per the decision was taken in the fourth Committee meeting on June 24 this year, Director Environment-cum-Special Secretary F&E department on Saturday wrote to the Home department to seek permission from the Centre for preparation of NRC in Kendrapara. Raising the issue, Amicus Curiae Agarwal had submitted that the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants have intruded into Bhitarkanika through sea route and permanently settled there.
They are carrying on illegal prawn culture activity and destroying the mangrove forest cover of the park.
Agarwal, in his representation, stated that in 2004, the then Union Home Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal had acknowledged in the Rajya Sabha about the presence of 30,850 illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in Odisha. The number today is stated to have increased to over seven lakh, mostly concentrated in Kendrapara.
“Their number and the illegal activities carried out by them are not hidden from the Government of Odisha but nothing has been done till date to deport even a single person,” Agarwal stated, adding that the issue concerned national security too.
State to move Centre for NRC
Following Supreme Court’s directions to chief justices of 15 States in April 2017 to take up the issue of conservation of ecology of major wetlands, the Orissa High Court had suo motu registered a PIL on the protection of Chilika lake and Bhitarkanika National Park in September 2017. It had appointed Agarwal as Amicus Curiae to assist in the matter.
Agarwal had filed a report highlighting six factors that included the proliferation of illegal prawn gheris, pollution, unregulated boat operations and oil spills, depletion of mangrove cover in Bhitarkanika, activities by illegal Bangladeshi immigrants inside Bhitarkanika and poaching. The high-level committee was constituted with the consent of the High Court for taking coordinated and time-bound action on the issues.
● Large population of Bangladeshi immigrants settled in Bhitarkanika
● Illegal prawn culture activity in the wetland
● Invaluable mangrove forest cover destroyed
● Unregulated boat operations and oil spills
● National security under threat