“Bangladeshi’s facing economic hardship looks for better employment in India. Not everyone who crosses the border is a criminal or smuggler. There are many who inadvertently cross the border; this includes women and children and sometimes old people.
There are people who are just curious to find the border or people visiting relatives. Our forces after interrogation hand these people to personnel of Border Guards Bangladesh through flag meetings,”
– S.S. Guleria, DIG and spokesperson of the South Bengal Frontier of the BSF.
BSF has expressed a kind gesture towards several Bangladeshi migrants who cross over the border without authentic documents.
Very recently, two women Sabana Begum (40) and Rehana Khatoon (30) confronted by BSF on midnight of 23 September, near the outpost of Jeetpur in North 24 Paraganas district of West Bengal were caught for illegal transit but were later let go.
Upon interrogation they said,
“We are working in Bangalore for six months since our arrival to India, and now we are returning home.”
– Sabana Begum.
Until 5 October 2022, the border guarding force has returned 287 illegal migrants who were inquired about and found to have no criminal history (which includes 102 women, 156 men, 38 children, and 1 transgender).
Why such a humane gesture?
Bangladesh – India brotherhood
India – Bangladesh shares historic links during the colonial period and even after independence.
A well-known fact is that India helped the eastern neighbor to get independence from West Pakistan on 1971, and in return, Bangladesh compromised a significant part of its territory and ceded it to India on 1974.
According to the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement Bangladesh and India mutually exchanged land enclaves into each other’s territory for better demarcation, in Bangladesh ceded 17,160 acres of land, while India did only 7,110 acres.
Bangladesh agreed on the Mitri Setu project built on the Feni river in 2021, this reduced the travel time between Sabroom (South Tripura) and Chittagong port (Bangladesh).
Apart from this, Bangladesh has permitted access to its Mongla Chittagong ports for transit into India.
West Bengal swamped with foreign prisoners
Reports from the Prison Statistics of India 2021 reveal that West Bengal alone accounts for 31% of foreign prisoners, out of which 40.5% are Bangladeshis.
Reason for migration into India
- Bangladesh shares the border unevenly with multiple Indian states with last-mile settlements in the border vicinity.
- There are several illegitimate sources to obtain counterfeit Indian IDs.
- The border areas of India and Bangladesh have poor economic development, basically, a pastoral condition that forces individuals to cross borders in search of employment opportunities.
Apart from establishing bilateral cooperation, the efforts of residents can be encouraged to alert the nearest authorities of any suspicious individuals.
The regional groupings like SAARC, SCO, and BIMSTEC which have prioritized regional cooperation on economic fronts, need to work on this issue which is common across other regional borders like Indo – Myanmar, and India – Sri Lanka.
The Boarder Guarding forces on either sides must be kept of strict vigil to focus on porous locations across the borders and deter away any person illegally crossing over.
Improve border surveillance by using smart technologies like HD cameras, motion detectors and drones.
Apart from everything, there is an urgent need to conduct the National Population Registrar, which was last conducted in 2015. This helps to filter out non-Indian residents, foreign nationals, refugees and immigrants.
The presence of Chinese projects are depriving employment to the local population of that nation, which must be addressed by the Government in negotiation with China.
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