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Identifying Foreigners

Existing laws provide enough scope to identify foreigners

Allegations of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Pakistan staying at Indira Nagar in Chimbel under the Old Goa police station were made at the gram sabha by a resident who lamented that the panchayat and the police had not taken any action to identify foreigners, though he had complained earlier about it too. His claims were refuted by the vice president of the Bharatiya Janata Party minority cell, Maulali Shaikh, who said his allegations were no more than rumours being spread to cause communal discord in the area. Shaikh has claimed that 600 signatories to panchayat belonging to different faiths have denied the possibility of presence of Bangladeshis or Pakistanis in the area. As the issue is sensitive and could lead to social tension and law and order problem, it is necessary that the police gets into action and gathers information from the grassroots about any foreigners staying at Indira Nagar or other parts of Chimbel panchayat to check the veracity of the allegations.

Indira Nagar was set up by the government way back in 1971. Most of its residents are migrants from other states, mainly from Karnataka. On the land which was allotted to the residents by the authorities, hundreds of houses have come up. Often complaints have been heard of illegalities including encroachments in the area, but for reasons unknown the authorities have preferred to remain indifferent. Though hundreds of tenements have come up in the area which has expanded over the years, it still lacks basic civic amenities. Chimbel has also earned notoriety, as some elements accused of criminal activities were linked to the area, a charge which found mention in the complaint of the resident who alleged the presence of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Pakistan. What with encroachments, the links to criminal elements and other irregularities, Chimbel has become a breeding ground for fears and apprehensions of all kinds. The authorities need to take effective steps to remove the causes of these fears. In view of fresh allegations it is necessary that not only the area be scanned for presence of Bangladeshis and Pakistanis but also for presence of criminal elements.

Even as we discuss the allegations of presence of Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, NRI commissioner Narendra Sawaikar has pointed out that over 55,000 Goans were currently enjoying dual citizenship of India and Portugal, which is illegal as India has not recognized dual citizenship yet. He said the efforts of the Union government to examine the issue of dual citizenship under the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955, have come a cropper as very few people turned up before the collectors of the two districts to surrender their Indian passports on acquisition of Portuguese citizenship. It is for the state authorities to decide on this issue as early as possible as indecisiveness or delay could lead to a situation similar to that in the North East. Timely action by the authorities can prevent illegalities. Not that those holding documents of Portuguese citizenship should be termed foreigners, but the state should ensure that they continue living here using the benefits granted to those holding Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has announced that National Register of Citizens for the whole country would be completed by 2024 to identify illegal immigrants. The amendment to the law is before the Parliament and is expected to be passed soon. The implementation of the NRC was found to be faulty in Assam. Its use throughout the country is likely to be a Herculean task and could pose more complex challenges than it did in Assam. Besides, uniformity in its implementation cannot be guaranteed. Many in the country have been living without bothering to register the births of their children and grandchildren and could find it difficult to prove their citizenship. There are also cases of genuine citizens not being able to get Aadhaar cards, while others got them through manipulation. There is no need for an NRC to detect foreigners. There are enough laws to identify foreigners, even without an NRC. The panchayats, municipalities and police can use the existing laws to separate Indian citizens from those who possess no or false documents and fail to prove their bonafides.

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