Bhubaneswar: The state government had no information on illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in Odisha, a written reply by state minister for home, Dibya Shankar Mishra, in the assembly on Monday said.
The MoS (home) said ‘information (on illegal Bangladeshis) was being collected’ in response to queries from BJD MLA Aswini Patra on whether Odisha had illegal Bangladeshis , whether they had been identified, the localities they lived in and the steps taken to send them back.
Notably, chief minister Naveen Patnaik had informed the assembly in 2015 that the state had 3,987 infiltrators, all from Bangladesh.
According to his reply then, Kendrapada district had the highest number of illegal immigrants — 1,649 — followed by Jagatsinghpur (1,112), Malkangiri, Bhadrak, Balasore, Nabarangpur and Bargarh. Unofficial sources, however, say there are 80,000 illegal Bangladeshis in Bhubaneswar alone.
The presence of illegal immigrants, especially in the wetlands of coastal Odisha, has often triggered apprehension in the state. On September 20, the Union home ministry had forwarded to the Registrar General of India a suggestion from Mohit Agarwal — the Orissa high court’s amicus curiae in a case related to wetland protection — seeking a National Register of Citizens (NRC)-like exercise in Kendrapada district.
The amicus curiae had first made such a suggestion in the high court in January. He then followed it up with the forest department in June.
The forest department forwarded the suggestion to the state home department in August. In his submission to the government, Agarwal said the number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh in the state would be seven to eight lakh.
In July 14, 2004, Sriprakash Jaiswal, then Union MoS for home, had told the Rajya Sabha that Odisha had 30,850 illegal Bangladeshi immigrants as on December 31, 2001.
In 2005, the state government had served ‘Quit India’ notices on 1,551 suspected Bangladeshis in Kendrapada.
Sources said the government would wait for the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, which will redefine the term illegal immigrant, before pushing for an National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state.