The UPA government has largely “resolved” the problem of illegal migration from Bangladesh by raising the number of visas issued to Bangladesh nationals and fast-tracking the process, Home Minister P Chidambaram said on Friday.
He said illegal migration from the eastern neighbour had reduced to a trickle.
At the end of the second home minister level talks with Bangladesh, Chidambaram told reporters that the issue of illegal migration did figure at talks with the visiting Bangladesh Home Minister Shahara Kahtun.
But he added the visa regime — that had resulted in issuance of 5 lakh visas to Bangladeshis in 2011 — had been liberalised to enable more Bangladeshi nationals to enter the country legally.
“So I think much of the problem of illegal migration has been resolved by quickening the process of issue of visas and increasing the number of visas that are given to Bangladeshis,” the home minister said.
“There is really no reason for any Bangladeshis to cross over illegally. But I do admit that some crossings do take place….,” he said.
Security officials, however, were not as convinced, pointing that the large chunk of people who illegally crossed the porous Indo-Bangladesh border were the poor who will not qualify for an employment or tourist visa.
Also, official figures of tourist arrivals and visas issued to Bangladeshis indicate the number of visas issued in 2011 was not unusually high. For instance, according to information tabled in parliament, India had issued 5.19 lakh visas to Bangladeshi nationals in 2008, 4.47 lakh in 2009 and 4.32 lakh in 2010.
The Congress-led coalition has traditionally played down the rhetoric against poor Bangladeshi nationals who illegally enter and work in India, primarily as unskilled labourers.
In 2004, the home ministry had withdrawn its statement to Parliament that put the number of Bangladeshi illegal migrants at 120 million after Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi complained to the Prime Minister.