NEW DELHI: By January 15, 2015, the Union Home Ministry will have a list and map of vulnerable patches and routes from where illegal immigrants from Bangladesh enter into Indian Territory. The ongoing identification exercise is on the lines of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s zero tolerance policy towards illegal immigration. During 16th Lok Sabha campaign on April 28 in Serampore, West Bengal, Modi had asked the illegal Bangladeshis to pack their bags.
“You can write it down. After May 16, these Bangladeshis better be prepared with their bags packed,” Modi had said.
Now, after 6 months in the power, the Home Ministry is in the final stages of implementing the heightened security measures to foil unlawful entries in India that includes more boots on the ground. As per the revamped policy, the illegal immigrants who are intercepted at the international border will be “sent back then & there” to Bangladesh. On-the-spot action has been finalised by the Ministry to do away with the lengthy paper-work which often turns out to be counter-productive. Home Ministry officials said that after January 15 next year, security and vigilance deployment will be done on the basis of a map to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants.
“Intelligence will be beefed up at the entire length of the vulnerable routes identified in the map. The vigilance will also keep a close watch on the personnel of border guarding force, Border Security Force (BSF) and if they are found to be involved in assisting the unlawful infiltration, strict action will be taken,” officials added.
Border fortifications will grow in certain areas where works could not be completed due to issues related to land acquisition and environment clearance. The Burdwan terror blast and subsequent investigation by the agencies had exposed the vulnerability of India-Bangladesh border, revealing that Jihadi elements based in Bangladesh had complete freedom in moving in and out from Indian Territory in West Bengal. The wave of terrorist modules trying to infiltrate in India had considerably increased in the last couple of years, investigators had pointed out.
Modi government is talking to three state governments— Tripura, West Bengal and Assam—to raise impenetrable barrier at a vulnerable patch with length of 188 km. The project was stuck due to issues related to land acquisition. The centre has also persuaded the state government of Meghalaya to finish the fortification work at 87.5 km border areas.
After assuming power, NDA government is said to have resolved the environmental issues in fencing 61.6 km of vulnerable patch that falls under Dampa tiger reserve in Mizoram. According to officials, a high-level meeting on August 12, 2014, resolved the issues and action plan has been prepared to start the work. India shares a 4096-km-long border with the Bangladesh, of which 2980.7 km is land border and 1116 km is riverine. The government has proposed to buy 15 boats—10 double engine speed boats and 5 twenty metres medium vessels—to check illegal entry.
Officials said the second major focus of the government is to establish connectivity by building roads for effective patrolling in border areas. Approximately 610 km of the border area is yet to be fenced, although, officials said the road projects will be completed by May 2016.
SECOND LINE OF DEFENCE
Besides, impregnable barrier and deployment of BSF personnel, the proposed action includes a unique Prevention of Infiltration of Foreigners (PIF) plan under which over 3,000 personnel have been assigned to Assam to act as second line of defence to thwart illegal immigration attempts. There is a proposal to raise four additional battalions of BSF in 2015-16 exclusively for deployment on Indo-Bangladesh border.
“The government has also activated village defence parties along the border to track down movements of suspicious groups in the areas. The second line of defence will deter people from crossing the border. The centre has also assured the concerned states on central assistance to catch illegal immigrants trying to sneak across from Bangladesh,” a source said.
But the intriguing part is that successive governments have failed to assess the influx of unauthorised immigrants. There is no official figure of deportation besides estimate of immigrant population. The Home Ministry does not have a realistic data of illegal immigrants in Assam and West Bengal. In July 2004, the government had estimated that there were 1.20 crore illegal immigrants including 50 lakh in Assam. The data was later retracted by the government.