India Stands On Brink Of Boston-Like Disasters

By Gajanan Khergamker

The recent Boston killings will bring into the fore the issue of immigration. However, it isn’t just the United Kingdom and the United States of America that are the only nations that face the issue of illegal immigrants. India, for her part, has a large number of foreign nationals living in the country without legal documents in place.

A response to a Right to Information application filed earlier this month, seeking information on foreign national living in India illegally and the nation’s effort to deport them, revealed that besides nationals from Pakistan and Bangladesh, immigrants from over 42 countries live in India illegally. The reply also revealed that presently a total of 71,000 foreign nationals were staying illegally in India.

Out of the total number of illegal nationals living here, a colossal 24,000 were from Bangladesh and 8,037 are from Pakistan whose whereabouts remained unknown. It was revealed that, if not all, most of these illegal immigrants had been examined for terror links.

It was also revealed that most of these illegal immigrants have been staying in the country for years and had come to India without valid travel documents which only reveal the country’s laxity towards security issues.

Earlier this month, a Pakistani national was arrested from Jama Masjid, Delhi. He had been living in the country illegally after his visa expired few months ago. The Intelligence Bureau had examined the person for his motives to see if his decision to overstay had any connection with terrorism.

In another case, a Pakistani national was nabbed for ‘living’ in Uttar Pradesh illegally for the past 13 years after his visa expired in 1998. Getting in the country without valid documents seems very easy since most of these foreign nationals overstaying had arrived in India without valid documents in the first place.

Reportedly, India had more than two crore illegal immigrants in 2010. Most of these immigrants were from the subcontinent. Then, the government had said it was very difficult to identify the immigrants since most of them could pass off as Indian. India shares a porous border with its neighbouring countries.

And, most of the time, women and young girls from countries like Bangladesh and Nepal are illegally brought into the country for flesh trade.

It doesn’t take much to enter India illegally. Most of these agents that bring other nationals in India illegally usually have ‘connections’ with security personnel at the border.

It was recently reported that it takes only Rs 1, 380 to enter India illegally. Just last month, five illegal Bangladeshi and three Nepali immigrants were arrested in Charbagh in Lucknow. These immigrants were arrested by the Charbagh after they received a tip-off about foreign nationals living in a hotel in the area illegally.

It was reported that these Bangladeshi entered the country through the Benapole-Haridaspur border, nearly 1,360 km from Lucknow. Rigorous interrogation revealed that there is a nationwide racket of illegal immigration and the immigrants hinted towards terror links.

These illegal immigrants were also grilled by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Intelligence Bureau and State Intelligence for terror links.

The Bangladeshi had reportedly entered the country with forged passports of Nepal and most of them are suspected to be ‘sleeping modules of terror outfits.’ These so-called ‘agents’ charge Rs 1,380 to help Bangladeshi nationals migrate into India.

These nationals were brought in India by a Bangladeshi national Abu Qasim living in Kolkata. The police also recovered his passport while arresting these eight immigrants.

Earlier this month, the Delhi High court asked the Delhi government to deport all foreign national to their respective countries. The High Court called such immigrants ‘parasites’ that drain the country’s already dwindling economy. The court had given orders after sentencing four Bangladeshis to 13 years of imprisonment for conducting a robbery in Delhi.

The court also asked the chief secretary of the state to identify each and every ‘illegally residing’ foreigner in the national capital and ensure they are sent back to their respective countries. An RTI application had revealed that around 7,000 Bangladeshis immigrants were held in the national capital by the police in between 2007 and 2012.

Although a large number of illegal immigrants are from neighbouring countries, there is sizeable number of illegal immigrants from western countries that come to India. The lure of a chance role in a Bollywood film or in the glamour industry drive a lot of foreigners to India looking to make a quick buck. Most of these illegal immigrants also enter into sex trade and stay in India for years on end. There are places in the city notorious for pricey fair-skinned sex workers. The space is occupied by fair foreigner sex-workers masquerading as tourists from Turkey, Russia and most of Europe, selling sex—on the move, in a car or at a place of your convenience.

These foreigners usually sleep by the day in shoddy dormitory stretch in the area and get dolled-up in the night to go out for ‘work.’ There have been high-profile raids in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore in which a lot of girls from Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and European countries have been arrested.

It was alleged these girls travelled to India on tourist visas and were involved in the flesh trade for high-end clients. Delhi Police, last year, unearthed such rackets in the Greater Kailash, South Extension and Chhattarpur areas.

This formed the basis of an Indian directive that all Ukrainian women between 15 and 40 should be screened with extraordinary care when they apply for a visa to India. A group of Ukrainian women gate-crashed the Indian Embassy in Kiev and protest ‘in the nude’ against the ‘bias’ of Indian Government.

On the heels of this episode in Ukraine, in an attempt to salvage the situation, the Union home ministry shot off a directive that says if a probe revealed the woman did not come to India or did not indulge in crime of her free will, the state government should not file a charge-sheet under the Foreigners Act and other relevant laws.

Whether it is to please the West or boost tourism, bowing to international pressure along with having to contend with risky-as-ever border security, where personnel can ‘bought’ for few bucks, letting illegal immigrants move in and out of the country easily is a step towards a bigger disaster.

If the government doesn’t want repeat of a David Headley or 26/11, it needs to make stronger immigration rules most countries like Saudi Arabia, UK and USA are currently aiming to implement.