Illegal migration issue serious: PC

NEW DELHI, Aug 25 – Admitting that illegal migration is a serious problem, Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram today declined to link the undemarcated border with the influx of immigrants from Bangladesh. The Home Minister was responding to Members in the Rajya Sabha this morning during a Question Hour discussion on boundary dispute with the neighbouring country. Chidambaram observed that to call an immigrant as an infiltrator also may not be correct because infiltration is used in a very different context in connection with militancy. The undemarcated border is only 6.1 km and it lies in three segments. There is a good possibility that these matters will be resolved when the Prime Minister visits Bangladesh. Chidambaram said, “As far as illegal immigration from Bangladesh is concerned, yes, that is a problem. People from Bangladesh cross over and enter into India. While large numbers come on visas, a small number does come illegally. However, the Home Minister’s reply led further interruptions with AGP and BJP MPs lodging protests. “We apprehend them on the international border. I have the numbers that are apprehended at international border. In 2008 - 3,175, in 2009 - 2,460; in 2010 - 1,600, and in 2011 up to July – 453 illegal migrants were apprehended,” he reeled out. Amidst interruption by Members, who demanded a half-an-hour discussion, Chidambaram conceded that a large number of people have come across the border and they have not been apprehended. “I concede that. This is a very long border. It is a difficult border. We have a large number of BOPs. We are increasing the number of BOPs by almost 50 per cent. We are trying to strengthen the border, but given the nature of the terrain, the fact that people on either side of the border belong to the same racial and language group, there are great difficulties in identifying illegal immigrants,” he said. ‘There are no easy solutions, but we are doing our very best to stop illegal immigration,” he argued. Replying to questions, the Home Minister further clarified that there are no different standards between the western and eastern borders. Between India and Bangladesh, the agreement was that fencing will be erected beyond the 150 yards from the international border. “In some places, we have asked that we should be allowed to erect the fencing within 150 yards. “The misconception should be corrected, that if the fence is erected at 150 yards, the land on the other side of the fence belongs to Bangladesh. It is completely wrong. That land is Indian land. There are gates, there are BPOs,” he said. Treading cautiously citing friendly relations with Bangladesh, Chidambaram disclosed that that India and Bangladesh have identified a certain number of patches for joint inspection. At least 46 patches have been prioritized. In 34 patches, joint inspection between India and Bangladesh has been completed. Work has commenced in 27 cases, and, in the remaining cases, work will commence. “Wherever we want to build fence within 150 yards, we go through a procedure. It is a slow procedure. It is a procedure that requires negotiations with Bangladesh but we are addressing those problems, where the fence has to be put up within 150 yards of the international boundary.” Declining to give any time line for demarcating the boundary, Chidambaram said that on October 8, 2009, Bangladesh had given notice before the International Arbitration Tribunal. India has time to submit its counter memorial. Bangladesh has 51 enclaves inside the Indian territory and India has 111 enclaves inside the Bangladesh territory. As far as the number of people is concerned, the number in both categories of enclaves is not very large. The total number in all the enclaves put together is only 51,590. Earlier, Kumar Deepak Das said that there were many disputed lands on the Indo-Bangladesh border, such as Lathitilla-Dumabari. Some 50 acres of land, including a tea garden, that has been given to Bangladesh for construction of the Bhongir line in the Karimganj area. Making an intervention, Biren Baishya wanted a half-an-hour discussion on the issue. Thomas Sangma said that Meghalaya shares a large part of its border with Bangladesh but he claimed that the border fencing is done with a setback of 150 yards from the border pillars. As a result, India is losing a lot of land to Bangladesh and the neighbouring country is not constructing any border from their side, he pointed out.