The number of illegal immigrants in West Bengal is not known, the Home Ministry told parliament on Wednesday, when asked about its plans to conduct the National Register of Citizens or NRC nationwide. The ministry, which will be responsible for carrying out the mammoth task, does not yet have a blueprint on how it would go about it.
Trinamool Congress MP Shanta Chhetri on Wednesday asked the government whether the Citizens' list would be conducted in West Bengal, and if the centre had the data on the number of illegal immigrants currently living in the state.
"Since the illegal immigrants enter into the country including the State of West Bengal without valid travel documents in a clandestine and surreptitious manner, accurate data regarding number of such immigrants living in the State of West Bengal is not available," MoS (Home) Nityanand Rai told Rajya Sabha.
"The issue of illegal infiltration from Bangladesh and Security & Border Management related issues are regularly taken up at various levels including Home Secretary Level talks between India and Bangladesh. Bangladesh authorities have been urged to take effective steps to check the illegal infiltration of their nationals into India, especially through vulnerable and riverine areas," the minister stated in a written reply to Rajya Sabha.
Home Ministry officials have also potential cited hiccups in getting NRC conducted nationwide.
"NRC is a more rigorous exercise even than census. In Assam the cutoff date for NRC was 1971 but for rest of the country what that cutoff date would be it's still not certain," an official said.
Critics said the whole exercise of conducting NRC nationwide would be a waste of taxpayers' money.
"Congress government decided to conduct NRC in Assam in 2005 and it took 14 years to complete exercise. How much time would it take to conduct this exercise across India no one is certain," a senior government official said.
"In Assam alone it (NRC) cost exchequer Rs 1600 crore and if it needs to be done in 28 states and 9 UTs it would amount to not less than Rs 60,000 crore," the official said.