Hand-held GPS, common database soon as Assam looks to overhaul illegal immigrant detection system

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Guwahati, February 7: Saddled with a mess of mismanaged data and multiple faulty investigations, the BJP-led government in Assam is set to introduce several changes in the way it conducts field investigations and manages information of suspected illegal migrants, mostly ‘Bangladeshis’.
Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, special director general of police (border), said field personnel of the specialised branch of Assam police which deals with detection of illegal migrants in the state, will soon be armed with a hand-held device to capture details of suspects.
“This device can capture photos, biometrics and other details of the suspects and transfer it to the server in the headquarters in real time,” Mahanta said. “Since the device is also fitted with GPS it will also record the exact location, the latitude and longitude of the place where the field officers have detected a suspect,” he said.
As of now, these field officers visit villages and manually take down the details, the biometrics, and the photos of the suspects. “In many cases, one would find a mismatch. The biometrics of a person would be mixed with the details of another suspect,” Mahanta said.
The senior official accepted that in many cases the field officers would not even visit the spot but fill up the details sitting in their office. “This change would ensure that we cannot be taken for a ride since it will record the location where the officials conduct the spot inquiry,” he said.
As of now, the Border Organisation has 38 devices costing a little over Rs 1,00,000 each, which have been used to capture details of around 950 foreigners in detention in the six centres which run out of jails in the state.
“We need at least three devices for each of the 350 police stations,” Mahanta said adding that the organisation was toying with the idea of buying a tablet instead of the more expensive devices.
Once the Border Organisation initiates an inquiry, the suspects are issued a notice by one of the 100 foreigners tribunals in the state where they have to prove they are Indian citizens.
In a parallel exercise, the Election Commission of India also undertook an extensive revision of electoral rolls and marked many whose citizenship was suspect as ‘Doubtful Voters’ or D Voters.
According to data placed by the state government in the assembly in February, there have been 6,26,973 cases against suspected foreigners in the tribunals as of August 2018, out of which 1,08,815 have been declared as Indians while 1,03,764 have been declared as foreigners.
The data showed there were 2,02,092 D Voters in the 1997 voters’ list and 1,60,051 according to the 2005 voters’ list. As of September 15, 2018, the number of D voters stood at 1,19,559. As per the figures, out of the 2,44,144 D Voters whose cases were referred to tribunals, 1,18,328 have been disposed of and only 23,437 of such suspects were found to be foreigners.
According to data, since 2015, only two people declared as foreigners by the tribunals have been deported.
Meanwhile, the lack of a common database of illegal migrants in the state had complicated matters for the preparation of the National Register of Citizens. The Supreme Court ruled that declared foreigner and their descendants were to be kept out of the NRC while D Voters and their descendants were to be put on hold till their cases are decided by tribunals, irrespective whether they pass the verification checks of the process.
After the final NRC draft was published, authorities have so far found as many as 7,000 Declared Foreigners and D Voters who made it to the complete draft for lack of a database.
In many cases, those who have served in the defence forces or who have been declared as Indian citizens, have found their names out of the NRC because the records had not been updated. The Border Organisation, finally acting on a Gauhati high court order, has chalked out plans of a common database of illegal immigrants.
Mahanta said the common database, which will be based on the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems, will ensure real-time data updates on suspects. The Border Organisation, the electoral registration officer, detention centres, foreigners tribunals and NRC will have access to the database.
According to a presentation given by Border Organisation to the High Court, there was data format mismatch between various entities including Border Organisation, FT, ERO and NRC. The presentation also said how there was no data sanctity as no mechanism to check the quality of data was available.
The database which will take about 21 months for its implementation will be prepared at a cost of around Rs 55 million. It proposes to have details of both suspected and declared foreigners including the GPS location of their residence and biometrics. (Courtesy:HT)