GUWAHATI, July 22 - Way back in 1965, a proposal was mooted to compile a register of citizens in Assam and to issue identity cards to Indian citizens on the basis of it. But unfortunately, the proposal was not taken up. Similarly, a proposal to erect barbed wire fencing along the border with the then East Pakistan was also shelved due to various reasons.
According to a Government report, in 1965, the Government of India took up with the State Government to expedite compilation of Register of Citizens and to issue identity cards on the basis of this register to Indian inhabitants at least in selected areas of the State. Under this proposal for Identity cards, Indian citizens in Assam were to carry Identity cards on a voluntary basis so that citizens possessing identity cards are not embarrassed by officials checking infiltration of Pakistanis. But because of the reasons best known to the people at the helm of affairs at that time, the project was not implemented.
Moreover, Government of India sent another proposal to the Assam Government to clear a mile deep belt along the border with East Pakistan so that barbed wire fencing can be erected to prevent infiltration of foreigners. Government of Assam, however expressed difficulties in expeditiously clearing up the border areas since it involved shifting of 25,000 families (1,28,000 persons) along the 560 square mile belt on the Assam-East Pakistan border. In January 1965, the State Government also submitted a scheme to the Union Home Ministry for providing barbed wired fencing to cover vulnerable stretches. The Home Ministry decided that a beginning in barbed wire fencing must be made in a few key sectors but owing to shortage of barbed wire, amongst other things the project, however, could not get off the ground. Eventually, by 1966, the Central Government dropped the proposal to issue identity cards in consultation with the Government of Assam, having found the project impracticable, the report said.
It may be mentioned here that the process of erecting barbed wire and construction of border roads along the Assam-Bangladesh border ultimately started after the signing of the Assam Accord and even after nearly 33 years of signing of the
Accord, the process has not been completed. Moreover, the fencing constructed at a stretch of around 76 kilometers along the international border in the first phase had to be replaced due to faulty design as in most places, the fencing was erected at a much lower height than the border roads and was damaged by floods. Moreover, the international riverine border remains vulnerable as no physical barriers could be placed and now the Government is examining the feasibility of using modern technology to improve vigil along it.