With the ringing of the election bells in Assam, the state again faces a host of questions regarding the illegal immigration of Bangladeshis in the state. More often than not, the issue of Bangladeshi immigrants is vociferously spoken only during elections. Recently, in one of his statements given to Hindustan Times Badruddin Ajmal, the chief of Assam’s All India United Democratic Party addressing the centre said, “Shoot illegal Bangladeshis if you’ve to, don’t harass genuine Indians.” Illegal immigration in India from Bangladesh has always been a major political issue in the north-eastern states of India. Though Assam witnesses the highest numbers of immigration every year, a big chunk of the immigrants settle in states like West Bengal, Meghalaya, Tripura, Bihar also.
What is immigration? Immigration is the movement of people into a destination country which they are not natives of or where they do not possess citizenship in order to settle or reside there, especially as permanent residents or naturalized citizens, or to take up employment as a migrant worker or temporarily as a foreign worker
Why Bangladeshis immigrate to India? The major reasons for immigration are similar globally, however, for the Bangladeshis to immigrate in India ranges from socio-political strife, natural calamities, communal riots and poor economic prospects in Bangladesh. Despite many economic strides Bangladesh has made since its independence in 1971, over four crores of people are still subjected to utter poverty. The driving force for Bangladeshi citizens in knocking on the borders of India is largely due to economics.
How does India gets affected by illegal immigration? These migrants readily accept work at a minimal wage and are more hard working, as a result it has brought upon a problem of unemployment among native Indians. Again, for their settlement, deforestation, land grab, illegal occupancy have grown in India creating a pressure in the available natural resources. The Indian economy faces major problems because most of the money these immigrants earn in India, are sent to their relatives in Bangladesh, therefore preventing the circulation of money in India.
Options for India India can take a stance on the issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh. The options are available, yet the availability of options does not make it easy to implement. Sympathetic : First, we could take a sympathetic stance towards the Bangladeshi immigrants and allow them better opportunities in the country given the dire straits the people who immigrate live in Bangladesh. Hard stance : Secondly, India could pool in all as many resources as it takes to construct a border fence and safeguarding it, besides framing an effective, mutually respectable border policy between the two countries to check the immigration. Most of the immigration happen because of the porous border shared between the two countries. It is easier for the immigrants to cross the borders illegally. Along with either or both the options, India could apply diplomatic pressure to press Bangladesh in curtailing its citizens from crossing the border.
What is the need of the hour? A consensus among our citizens, a civil discussion among the political class, the recognition of the fact that if immigration is an issue, it’s an issue for India and all Indians. To use the immigration issue as a means for political dividends should be shunned for good. To use the issue of foreign citizens to complicate the relations among Indian citizens is suicidal and self-destructive. Let’s embrace discussion, not paranoia, let’s seek for solutions rather than slogans, the bottom line is, let work together and find out what could be the best way forward for the country as a whole. Illegal immigration is an issue to be discussed and not to be fought over, illegal immigration is an issue magnified by the political rhetoric over the issue.
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