Shillong, Sept. 1: Meghalaya has been in a quandary over infiltration for the past many decades and the problem continues to persist till date with no concrete solution in sight.
Going by media handouts from the BSF, infiltrators have been detected almost every second day from the frontier areas of Meghalaya and the faces of infiltration are predominantly found in the coal mining areas of the state.
Meghalaya, a state blessed with enormous coal and limestone deposits in various pockets from Jaintia Hills to West Khasi Hills and to the Garo hills region, has arguably been at the receiving end of infiltration as “infiltrators” manage to squeeze themselves in and get refuge in the mining areas.
According to the annual report of the Union ministry of home affairs for the year 2012-13, the Indian side of the Indo-Bangladesh border passes through West Bengal (2,216.7km), Assam (263km), Meghalaya (443km), Tripura (856km) and Mizoram (318km).
The entire stretch, comprising plains, riverine belts, hills and jungles, is heavily populated and is cultivated right up to the border.
“The Indo-Bangladesh border is marked by a high degree of porosity and checking illegal cross-border activities has been a major challenge. The main problem is of illegal migration from Bangladesh into India,” the report added.
In order to prevent illegal immigration and other anti-national activities from across the border, the Centre had sanctioned the construction of border roads and fencing in two phases.
The total length of Indo-Bangladesh border sanctioned to be fenced is 3,359.59km of which 2,762.11km of fencing has been completed (up to December 31, 2012), the report stated.
The report, however, said there had been some problems in fencing certain stretches on the border because of riverine/low-lying areas, population residing within 150 yards of the border, pending land acquisition cases and protests by border people, which led to delay in completion of the project.
In addition to the fencing, 3,585.53km of border patrol roads were constructed out of a sanctioned length of 4,407.11 km.
In Meghalaya, the 198.06km first phase of border fencing has been completed.
Of the 264.17km second phase, 129.07km has been completed.
Of the border roads, 211.29km has been constructed in the first phase while only 152.24km has been completed out of the 320km second phase.
At the internal security meeting held in New Delhi in June this year, Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma was candid when he touched upon the issue of infiltration.
He told the gathering that Meghalaya had a 443km border with Bangladesh and 695km border with Assam but had only 265 sanctioned posts of police officers and men under the prevention of infiltration scheme.
“There are about 125 BSF border outposts whose main responsibility is to guard the border and check illegal infiltration from across the international border. Considering the length of the international border, the existing number of posts under the PIF scheme is highly inadequate to deal effectively with the illegal influx of foreign nationals,” he had said.
He said Meghalaya had also been facing the problem of “influx of outsiders with doubtful citizenship” from the neighbouring states of Assam, Tripura and West Bengal “claiming to be genuine residents” of these states.
Since illegal influx of foreign nationals poses a threat to the demographic structure of the state, the chief minister had informed that an anti-infiltration directorate had been set up with 117 posts sanctioned in the first phase.
Another 206 posts would be sanctioned in the second phase in due course, he said.
Recently, Sangma had stressed the importance of the National Population Register (NPR) biometric enrolment, which is presently suspended in Meghalaya, to enable the state to detect and segregate non-citizens from genuine Indian citizens.
The chief minister had informed the Assembly last year that over 12,000 infiltrators had been detected between 2008 and July 2012 (See chart).
However, the popular demand, as spearheaded by more than a dozen pressure groups in the state, is the implementation of the inner-line permit (ILP) system to check influx and illegal immigration.
The ILP regulates visit of Indians to states where ILP regime is prevalent under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
In terms of Section 2 of Regulation, the system is prevalent in the three northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. Citizens of other states require a permit to visit these three states.
The main aim of the ILP is to prevent settling of other Indian nationals in states where ILP regime is prevalent to protect the indigenous/tribal population.