31 October 2005

Cross over cross-border migration

Illegal immigration from Bangladesh has been a recurring problem for India, but it is now that the volume of illegal immigrants has reached an alarming number. In spite of repeated protests by India, there has been no appreciable sensitivity shown by Bangladesh. India is, of course, cross about this.

The immigrants cross over for two main reasons: economic, and religious oppression of minorities (Hindus) from an Islamic Bangladesh.

Reports suggest that, annually, close to 15 billion dollars are earned by Bangladeshi migrants working and trading in India. Not only does this boost Bangladesh’s GDP, Bangladesh also has less mouths to feed every year. Smuggling is rampant, with cattle and cash and many other items smuggled out of India daily.

Then, there’s the issue of these illegal immigrants acting as cheap labour for various Indian businesses and industries. According to one report, there are over 13 million Bangladeshi labourers working in India… a great many of them in West Bengal (5.4 million), Assam (4 million) and Delhi (1.5 million). This, of course, would not be possible without the help of conspiring local Indian politicians. These local politicians sympathise with these illegal immigrants in order to strengthen their vote banks.

The Indian government, during its successive tenures, has turned a blind eye to this simmering problem, with the result that, now, it’s eating into India’s land, food and water resources, employment opportunities, health and literacy. Above all, it has also become a security threat.

There’s an increase in the crime rate in India and many of the robberies, dacoities and smuggling activities (cash, gold, cattle, arms and body organs) have been traced to Bangladeshi immigrants. There are also traces of subversive and terrorist activities. One report states that, since 1990, Assam has seen the birth of 9 Muslim militant outfits owing allegiance to Harkat ul Mujaheedin and Lashkar-e-Toiba.

According to a recommendation of the National Security System, dating back to February 2001: “The massive illegal immigration poses a grave danger to our security, social harmony and economic well-being. We have compromised on all these aspects so far. It is time to say enough is enough.”

Is anybody listening?

[Citation: South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG)]

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