The airport in Delhi is a few kilometers away from the millennium city of Gurgaon, and just 50 kilometers from the millennium city is the district of Nuh (Mewat). Despite its proximity to Delhi, the district has the dubious distinction of being the only backward district of Haryana; the callousness now extends to security matters. The district has been witnessing a continuous, rising influx of Rohingya immigrants in the last few years, yet the district administration, while being aware of this influx, is limited in its action and can do little to prevent it.
There is a perception about the district built by the administrators in Gurgaon—that it is a den of criminals. This baseless perception has done immense harm to the development, and even to the security, of the district. The national media also picks up selective stories about the district based on this perception.
The Nuh district is dominated by a backward population of Meos, a native tribe also referred as Khanzade, as they converted to Islam in the 17th century. The area is hardy, scarcity of water is endemic and overall development on all parameters is low. The demographic change being ushered in by the entry of Rohingyas will push the district towards an abyss. Whether this is happening because of the Tablighi Jamaat or is being facilitated by them is not known. The Tablighi Jamaat, which was founded in Nuh, has been expanding its presence globally and maybe facilitating the entry and settlement of the Rohingyas in the area.
The congregation of the Rohingyas along with the Tablighi Jamaat followers does not augur well for the security of the NCR. The rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan looking for ideological continuance in the region will also find resonance with the Rohingyas. Their entry into the border areas with Bangladesh has already created a nuisance. Moreover, a base so near the NCR creates a security nightmare for the country. While the government is working to curtail the entry or helping Myanmar manage its affairs better to reduce this migration, there is an immediate need to monitor, control and isolate these migrants so that they do not infiltrate and establish roots within and around the NCR.
Since its inception, the Centre for Innovation in Public Policy has been working in Nuh to study the impact of national and state policy on the ground. This has given CIPP the benefit of witnessing not just political change but also social change. CIPP’s model of research involves building and working on policy changes beginning from the district level right up to the union government level.
The changing demographics in a backward district so close to the NCR needs the attention of both the home ministry and the National Investigation Agency. This is not an issue that can be tackled by the state government or even the state police. They are neither equipped to understand the challenge nor possess the resources to do much about it.
The immediate demand is for the home ministry to set up a task force to study the problem and decide how to tackle it. The problem is likely to exacerbate as these foreign immigrants have started applying and getting Aadhaar Cards. The process of applying for an Aadhaar card is fairly simple; it does not need too many supporting documents. Some of these documents can be easily procured from pliable low-level officials.
The astonishing thing is that even when the district police discover that these foreigners have procured Aadhaar through fraudulent means they can’t get the Aadhaar cards cancelled. It seems that UIDAI, the issuing authority of Aadhaar cards, does not have a system for cancellation of these cards. Or, from preventing foreigners who have wrongfully obtained one from applying again. A simple solution could have been that biometrics of fraudulent applicants are stored and blacklisted by UIDAI to prevent future issues. This system could be online where a competent authority at the state level is allowed to recommend applications whose biometrics needs to be barred. This could be done in proper manner following an investigation by the police and approval of district administration that checks such applications again.
This is very essential now as Aadhaar has become the basis for authentication, including a bank account, a mobile phone, and can even be used for securing government benefits. Several foreign nationals have been found receiving government benefits including free ration in the district.
Due to the lack of any infrastructure in the district to identify or segregate foreign migrants, they have started building their houses in government or panchayat land, and a process of integration with villages has started. This integration will sooner or later result in marriages and even purchasing land. Some of the enterprising migrants have opened shops, abattoirs and other commercial outlets on the national highways. These outlets are recognizable as they are constructed using bamboo that is not grown in the area but has to be shipped from the country’s east.
The objective has to be defined by the home ministry on how to tackle this challenge and an SOP has to be developed for the purpose. Local communities need to be sensitised about the presence and the action that they need to take in case they see their proliferation in an area. A clear SOP for the police and district administration in all northern states have to be set up for identification, isolation and confinement of these migrants till such time a better system evolves.
The author is CEO, Center for Innovation in Public Policy a think tank based out of Gurgaon. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.