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Assam can�t take any more burden of foreigners: Pillai

By R Dutta Choudhury
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GUWAHATI, Oct 23 - The Government of India does not have any mechanism to determine which foreigner came to India due to religious persecution in their own country and which ones came for other reasons, said former Union Home Secretary GK Pillai. He also said that if at all the government wants to keep foreign nationals in India, instead of giving citizenship they should be given work permits and the burden should be distributed all over the country, as Assam is not in a position to take the burden of foreign nationals.

Talking to The Assam Tribune in the wake of the controversy in Assam over the Centre�s move to grant citizenship to the foreigners, who came to India because of religious persecution in their own country, Pillai said it would be difficult to determine which foreigner came because of religious persecution as there is no such mechanism in place.

�It will be different if some persons enter India following communal riots or any such incident. But with the presence of a large number of foreign nationals in India, it would not be possible to determine which of them came due to religious persecution,� he said. In this regard, he pointed out that in the aftermath of the Sikh riots in India, a number of Sikhs migrated to the United States and Canada and some of them were given citizenship after thorough investigation.

Pillai said that once a proposal was mooted in the Home Ministry to provide work permits to the foreigners if India is not in a position to deport them. But the political parties did not accept the same. He pointed out that some foreigners have been living in India for years and their children are born here. It may be difficult to deport them and in such cases, they can be given work permits, he added.

Pillai expressed the view that if the government is keen on keeping foreign nationals in India they should be given work permits instead of citizenship. A huge number of foreigners, including Indians, are working in the Middle East countries. But they are not given citizenship. They are given work permits, but they have no political rights, he added.

The former Union Home Secretary, who is well versed with the situation in Assam as he had earlier served as the Joint Secretary (North East) in the Ministry of Home Affairs, said that Assam cannot take the burden of foreign nationals. He expressed the fear that if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 becomes an Act and is implemented, Assam, which is already facing a major problem because of illegal migration, may encounter social and political tension. He said if the government wants to keep these foreigners in India, they should be shifted to other parts of the country. �A small State like Assam cannot take any more burden of foreign nationals. But some states of India have vacant land and the foreigners should be shifted there,� he added. He pointed out that even after the Independence, the then Chief Minister of Assam, Gopinath Bardoloi, had strongly opposed giving shelter to refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan in Assam.

Pillai, however, said that it remains to be seen whether the draft Bill becomes an Act and whether it would pass the scrutiny of the court of law as �there is every possibility of some individual or organisation approaching a High Court or the Supreme Court against the same.�

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Assam can�t take any more burden of foreigners: Pillai

GUWAHATI, Oct 23 - The Government of India does not have any mechanism to determine which foreigner came to India due to religious persecution in their own country and which ones came for other reasons, said former Union Home Secretary GK Pillai. He also said that if at all the government wants to keep foreign nationals in India, instead of giving citizenship they should be given work permits and the burden should be distributed all over the country, as Assam is not in a position to take the burden of foreign nationals.

Talking to The Assam Tribune in the wake of the controversy in Assam over the Centre�s move to grant citizenship to the foreigners, who came to India because of religious persecution in their own country, Pillai said it would be difficult to determine which foreigner came because of religious persecution as there is no such mechanism in place.

�It will be different if some persons enter India following communal riots or any such incident. But with the presence of a large number of foreign nationals in India, it would not be possible to determine which of them came due to religious persecution,� he said. In this regard, he pointed out that in the aftermath of the Sikh riots in India, a number of Sikhs migrated to the United States and Canada and some of them were given citizenship after thorough investigation.

Pillai said that once a proposal was mooted in the Home Ministry to provide work permits to the foreigners if India is not in a position to deport them. But the political parties did not accept the same. He pointed out that some foreigners have been living in India for years and their children are born here. It may be difficult to deport them and in such cases, they can be given work permits, he added.

Pillai expressed the view that if the government is keen on keeping foreign nationals in India they should be given work permits instead of citizenship. A huge number of foreigners, including Indians, are working in the Middle East countries. But they are not given citizenship. They are given work permits, but they have no political rights, he added.

The former Union Home Secretary, who is well versed with the situation in Assam as he had earlier served as the Joint Secretary (North East) in the Ministry of Home Affairs, said that Assam cannot take the burden of foreign nationals. He expressed the fear that if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 becomes an Act and is implemented, Assam, which is already facing a major problem because of illegal migration, may encounter social and political tension. He said if the government wants to keep these foreigners in India, they should be shifted to other parts of the country. �A small State like Assam cannot take any more burden of foreign nationals. But some states of India have vacant land and the foreigners should be shifted there,� he added. He pointed out that even after the Independence, the then Chief Minister of Assam, Gopinath Bardoloi, had strongly opposed giving shelter to refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan in Assam.

Pillai, however, said that it remains to be seen whether the draft Bill becomes an Act and whether it would pass the scrutiny of the court of law as �there is every possibility of some individual or organisation approaching a High Court or the Supreme Court against the same.�

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