DR. THOKCHOM MEINYA (INNER MANIPUR): I rise to participate in the discussion and consideration of the Illegal Immigration and Overstaying Foreign Nationals (Identification and Deportation) Bill, 2009 introduced by our hon. Colleague Shri Baijayant Panda.
Sir, we can look at this particular Bill in two parts – one is about illegal immigrants with no proper documents for travel and other things, and another one is overstaying foreign nationals who perhaps have the travel documents to come into our country. This particular Bill rather has given us a chance to discuss some very important illegal and migration issues. I being a man from one of the North Eastern States, I wish to say the following things.
In this era of globalization and liberalization, to speak about one’s identity and culture may sound conservative and retrogressive. It is not merely a matter of identity and culture, it also is a question of political and economic survival of the natives. Even in a global village or a cosmopolitan environment, everyone must have the right to preserve and promote his or her identity and culture, but exactly not at the cost of others. As a matter of fact, huge influx of illegal immigrants affects not only the culture and identity of the natives, but also greatly affects the economics and politics of the country.
There is no dearth of problems in the border States of the country – be it Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Gujarat, Orissa, for that matter in all coastal areas, and particularly in Bengal and North Eastern States. Our focus is always on terrorism, insurgency, under-development and, of course, corruption.
Let us see the situation in the North Eastern Region from where I come. Apart from the above-mentioned major issues of insurgency and the under-development, there is another problem looming large in the entire Region, that is, the problem of demographic infiltration across the border. In fact, illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar have been a major issue in States like Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura. Floods of migrants have come and settled in various parts of these States.
Tripuris in Tripura are now a minority community in their homeland because of the ever-increasing influx of population from Bangladesh. Earlier, Tripuris were the majority community in Tripura. But now they are reduced to a minority community in their own homeland. Moreover, their cultural identity has been greatly influenced by the aliens and foreign intruders.
Please take the example of Assam. Foreigners’ issue has been a vexed issue in the State for the last many years. Assam Gana Parishad is the product of the anti-foreigners movement of Assam students. Despite the Assam Accord and the Immigration Law, the problem of foreigners in Assam still continues. Thousands of migrants are still pouring into this State from Bangladesh. The most difficult duty of the State Government is to identify the foreigners and deport them. These migrants do speak the same language. They have the same religion. They can very easily mix with the natives. Thus their population increases alarmingly and there is a big change in the demographics.
Manipuris in the State of Manipur are under a constant threat from the waves of foreigners coming in from Myanmar. Floods of people from the neighbouring countries have entered Manipur and settled there. Such influx is going on every now and then because the border is porous. Still the intrusion is continuing. Here also the major problem is that the intruders have similar physical appearance and speak the same language. They have their arable lands on either side of the borders. Their children are married to one another. They go farming from this side to that side. So, this is a real human problem. They also speak, very interestingly, Kuki, Mejo, the same dialects. This is one problem. Consequently, a dramatic metamorphosis takes place and the identity of their culture is threatened. One day, the position of natives of Manipur may become like that of Tripuris in the State of Tripura. In order to check infiltration from the neighbouring countries, proper border fencing must be done.
MR. CHAIRMAN : Meinyaji, please wait.
Since the time allotted for consideration of this Bill is over, if the House agrees, we can extend the time till the completion of discussion on the Bill.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: We agree.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. Meinyaji, please continue.
DR. THOKCHOM MEINYA : In order to check infiltration from the neighbouring countries, proper border fencing and regular full guard is necessary. It is learnt that some fencing work has been started at the Indo-Myanmar border. I know border fencing at the Indo-Bangladesh border is taken up in full swing. It is very good. Fencing our border will definitely check illegal migration in the North-East. Fencing plus strict and proper security patrolling will certainly solve the menace of illegal migration.
We do understand many things about other border States like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Orissa and others. But I strongly feel that proper border fencing and vigilant border patrolling by our security personnel will definitely and drastically curb the problem of illegal migration across the border.
As I have said in the beginning, we can take up this particular Bill in two parts, one exclusively for illegal immigrants and another exclusively for overstaying foreign nationals.
With these words, I thank you for having allowed me to participate in the debate.
THE MINISTER OF STATE IN THE MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS (SHRI MULLAPALLY RAMACHANDRAN): Mr. Chairman, Sir, thank you very much for having given this opportunity. At the outset, let me thank the hon. Member Shri Baijayant Panda for having moved this Bill – the Illegal Immigrants and Overstaying Foreign Nationals (Identification and Deportation) Bill, 2009. Altogether ten Members have participated in this discussion. I express my thanks to the hon. Members who have actively participated in this discussion for their valuable observations and suggestions.
I have been listening with rapt attention to the views expressed by Mr. Baijayant Panda and other Members. The Bill is to provide for identification of illegal immigrants and those foreign nationals who are overstaying in the country or have gone missing after the expiry of their visas, and for their deportation to the countries of their origin.
Sir, by this Bill, the hon. Member seeks to establish a National Commission and State Commissions for identification and deportation of illegal immigrants and foreign nationals. The functions of the Commission, according to the mover are, to identify illegal immigrants or foreign nationals and determine their nationality, to prescribe the guidelines for State Commissions for identifying the illegal immigrants or foreign nationals and their nationality, to hear any complaint or appeal against the findings of any State Commission, to recommend to appropriate Government for deportation of illegal immigrants and foreign nationals, to facilitate speedy hearing of cases against illegal immigrants, and to take such measures as may be necessary for this purpose.
It is a fact that there are innumerable illegal immigrants in our country, as stated by the hon. Member, as is there in the Statement of Objects and Reasons. It is also a fact that the presence of the illegal immigrants creates a variety of problems in our country. They are mostly coming from neighbouring countries and the figures will show that the influx is mainly from Bangladesh.
Considering the large influx of illegal immigration from Bangladesh through the long porous border and further, in view of the geographical proximity, family ties and ethnic similarities, coupled with better economic opportunities in India, a special procedure has been laid under the existing Act for identification and deportation of Bangladeshi immigrants.
This provides for verification of claims of alleged illegal Bangladeshis to be persons of India, from the concerned State, within a period of 30 days and if it is not done, then deportation is effected through BSF, using ‘push back’ mode. These instructions are being reviewed and modified under delegated powers.
As far as illegal immigration from other countries is concerned, the State Government, after nationality verification is done by the Ministry of External Affairs, issues appropriate travel documents, and thereafter, deports the person. I would like to mention that we have adequate and appropriate legislation by way of Foreigners Act, 1946 to deal with such illegal immigrants and other related issues.
The 1946 Act defines ‘foreigners’ as persons who are not citizens of India. It gives wide powers to the Government of India to make orders relating to every aspect of illegal immigration and overstay of foreigners. The Foreigners Act, 1946 provides for detection, identification and deportation of illegal immigrants and foreigners overstaying in India. The authority under the Act of 1946 Act is given to the District Magistrate and Commissioner or Superintendent of Police.
Besides, it also stipulates certain obligations on the masters of vessels, pilots of aircrafts, owners of hotels, and premises frequented by foreigners to furnish information about foreign nationals. The effectiveness of the procedure laid down in the Foreigners’ Tribunal Order of 1964 passed under the said Act is also worth mentioning. I reiterate the fact that illegal immigration is a serious issue which needs to be addressed very effectively; and it is to be tackled in a pragmatic manner. But I must also state that the existing Acts, rules, orders made thereunder, especially the Foreigners Act, 1946 are adequate to deal with the problem of detection, identification and deportation of illegal immigrants.
The Private Member’s Bill proposes to set up a National and State Commissions, without providing for ground level mechanism for detection and identification of illegal immigrants. If the exercise is to be carried out by the District Police, there will be no change from the existing arrangement. Currently, the SP of the District has been made responsible for detection, identification and deportation of such persons.
Adding additional layer of State Commission through Civil Court process will only delay the final identification and thereafter deportation.