The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Report taking shape amid infiltration buzz

Berhampore, Aug. 22: The Murshidabad district administration is in the final stages of preparing its report on the multipurpose national identity card project that should give some idea of the problem of infiltration in this border region.

Over 2.55 lakh people in Murshidabad municipality and Murshidabad Jiaganj block were covered under the pilot project, the survey throwing up the alarming possibility that some 90 per cent of the population have failed to show proof of nationality according to any one of the 20-odd criteria.

M.N. Prasad, the district magistrate of Murshidabad, said: “We are towards the end of the verification process in these two localities. We are yet to complete it for around 15,000 people and the report will be ready once we cover them.”

“Since the report is not ready, we are not in a position to comment on how many people could produce the documents. But the trend suggests that it will be around 30 per cent.”

Political parties dismiss suggestions of only 9-10 per cent of the population being able to provide some citizenship proof.

“Since it is a border district, people presume infiltration is high in Murshidabad. But we are not aware of such infiltration,” said Mannan Hossain, member of Parliament from Murshidabad.

Though there is no comparable data for other districts, figures available from government sources suggest a high incidence of infiltration in Murshidabad.

Population density in Murshidabad is around 1,100 against the state average of 902 and population in the district has grown by 23.7 per cent in the last decade.

“These figures are not only high, but also growing with time and there is no doubt that infiltration is one of the reasons behind the numbers,” said an official involved in the project, stressing the need for fencing the India-Bangladesh border.

The demographic composition has changed, again indicating infiltration.

“The percentage of the Hindu population came down from 44.6 in 1951 to 35.92 in 2001, while the Muslim population grew from 55.24 to 63.67 in the same period. These are known facts, but politicians prefer silence,” the official added.

Infiltration may be taking a heavy toll. Over 2.15 lakh people in the district ' the highest in the state ' are covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana, showing the extent of poverty.

The literacy rate is only 55 per cent and Murshidabad stands 15th among 17 districts ranked by a government-backed survey in terms of the human development index.

While miseries have multiplied for the people, infiltration has created a political dimension. The number of Assembly seats in the state has increased from 19 to 22 in the constituency delimitation exercise.

“That’s why identity cards and fencing along the borders are a must in these areas,” said a senior Border Security Force official.

He stressed the importance of the ID card project, which has been rolled out to prepare a population register of over 3 million people.

Id cards will be distributed to people possessing any of the 20-odd documents the government has specified as proof of Indian nationality. The two localities from Murshidabad are part of a Rs 20-crore nationwide pilot project covering bordering districts in 13 states.

“Those with the documents will be included in the draft citizen register, while the citizenship of the rest will be in suspense and their names will feature in the draft register of residence. We will publish these registers,” said Prasad.

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