The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bengal’s settler woes

Baranagar, Jan. 12: A whopping 3.5 lakh immigrants entered the country every year through the eight border districts of West Bengal and settled in its different parts between 1981 and 1991, according to last year’s census.

“Infiltration of Bangladeshis in India is a continuous process and the volume of infiltrators is varying over several decades in a hyperbolic manner,” said census director Vikram Sen.

While many have settled in the country after the necessary procedures, most have stayed on as illegal immigrants and were not in the records.

“The problem of illegal immigration from Bangladesh has prompted several agencies at the state and the national level to come on a common platform to trace those undocumented illegal entrants,” Sen said at a recent workshop on settlers from Bangladesh organised by the Population Studies Unit of the Indian Statistical Institute.

A clear picture will emerge only after the entire data of the census has been processed. “We will be able to complete the exercise in 2003,” he said.

He pointed out that North 24-Parganas, Malda, West Dinajpur (as it existed then), Nadia, Darjeeling, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri recorded regular migrations between 1951 and 1991.

However, it is only after 1971 that migration across the Bangladesh border has been considered illegal.

According to census figures, the number of Pakistani and Nepalese immigrants in Darjeeling, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri had gone down during the period only to be substituted by the Bangladeshis.

However, statistics have shown a decline or stability in the numbers of illegal entrants in most districts since 1971. North 24-Parganas is the lone district where the number of the illegal entrants has been going up sharply since 1981.

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