Amit Shah
Home Minister Amit Shah addressing a rally in Kolkata | ANI Photo
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As Indian politicians debate a nationwide NRC and Home Minister Amit Shah brands illegal Bangladeshi immigrants as “ghuspethiye” and “termites”, data tells us a very different story.

“Bangladesh has surpassed India as the fastest-growing South Asian economy,” according to the Asian Development Bank. A 2018 report using World Bank data said, “Bangladesh could top India’s per capita income by 2020″. “Growth lessons India can take from new frontrunner Bangladesh”, goes another.

One will come across numerous headlines like these in Indian and global media today. These are mostly based on data provided by world bodies like the United Nations Development Programme, the Asian Development Bank and Standard Chartered.

Bangladesh is already performing better than India in terms of GDP growth and is also racing ahead in many social indicators like life expectancy, which is 72 years for an average Bangladeshi as against 68 years for an Indian and 66 years for a Pakistani.

All this data is publicly available at a time when “throw (infiltrators) into the Bay of Bengal” has become a popular political slogan coined by BJP president Amit Shah. But such is the scale of political rhetoric in India these days, and the staggering level of public belief in the words of BJP politicians, that data detailing Bangladesh’s economic boom stands emaciated.


Also read: Amit Shah vilifying Bangladeshis while PM Modi rolls out the red carpet for Sheikh Hasina


Verbal assault on illegal immigrants 

Through its final National Register of Citizens (NRC), Assam has already published a list of non-Indians — mostly ‘illegal’ Bangladeshi immigrants. It’s another story that many of those declared non-Indians in the NRC are Hindus and the BJP is understandably worried about their exclusion from the list. This could be owing to the fact that people migrating from Bangladesh are mostly Hindu Dalits.

Parties like the BJP and the Shiv Sena have been blaming ‘secular’ political parties for treating these immigrants as a vote bank. The BJP has promised that once it comes to power in states where it has not yet established a foothold, it will oust all such immigrants from India. At a rally in Kolkata, Amit Shah had last week vowed that “each and every infiltrator in India will be shown the door”. In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Shah equated Bangladeshi immigrants as “termites”. The issue had been the raison d’etre for the formation and existence of Asom Gana Parishad, once the ruling party of Assam, in its early days.

The BJP and the Shiv Sena consider these immigrants as a threat to national security and fear that they can change India’s religious demography. Right-wing fundamentalists also believe that if the inflow is not stopped, then the day is not far when the supremacy of the Hindu community could be threatened.

Bangladeshis are also squarely blamed for many criminal activities, including smuggling of cows for slaughtering.


Also read: Bangladesh is booming and here’s why — PM Sheikh Hasina explains


India lagging behind Bangladesh

But Indian politicians have yet to debate why the economy of Bangladesh is growing at a faster rate than India’s. There’s no denying that the Indian economy is stagnating and is currently steeped in a crippling slowdown while Bangladesh’s economy is flourishing. The natural corollary to this will be bridging of the gap between the two economies. In terms of per capita income too, Bangladesh could soon leave India behind.

Another aspect to the growth trajectories of two nations is that India is banking more on the service sector for its GDP growth, whereas in Bangladesh, the manufacturing sector is contributing significantly to the growth. This implies that a steadily growing economy will generate more employment than an economy that is sinking. Moreover, Bangladesh is also performing better than India in terms of female workforce participation.

Bangladesh has also trailed India in terms of healthcare access and quality. Even under the Narendra Modi government’s flagship Ayushman Bharat scheme, the laggard states like Bihar and West Bengal in health indicators are among the states getting the least amount of money from the Centre.


Also read: Bengali Hindu women not on NRC pin hopes on BJP promise of another list, citizenship bill


India needs to raise its game

So, do these grim realities mean that we are going to enter a new era in South Asia, where Bangladeshis will be richer and healthier and perhaps even happier than Indians?

Will this lead to a complete clampdown on refugees and illegal migrant inflow to India? Will this lead to a situation in which the poor strata of the Indian society will see Bangladesh as the promised land where they can get jobs and supposedly better health care? We do not know for sure yet.

Indians immigrating to richer countries is not a new phenomenon. Around 3.09 crore Indians are living abroad as per 2018 data. More than 44 lakh of them live in the US alone. The UK and Saudi Arabia are among other favourite destinations of Indians looking for greener pastures.

Living abroad does not make Indians less patriotic. Afterall, they chant Bharat Mata ki Jai with greater enthusiasm and are seemingly more vocal on social media platforms than Indians at home.

So, it will not be ethically and morally wrong if hordes of Indians work in Bangladesh and send money back home, also contributing to the Indian economy.

Who knows if Bangladesh gets its own version of the BJP with a similar anti-immigrant agenda, it might prepare its own NRC in future? We can only hope that the Bangladeshis do not find any Indians residing illegally there.

So, instead of fantasising about throwing out the illegal immigrants, a better course of action for India would be to make its economy grow at a faster pace, invest more in public-welfare sectors, especially on health and education, and eradicate or at least mitigate inequality. We can’t afford to lag behind the so-called ‘termites’. 

The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal.

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40 Comments Share Your Views

40 COMMENTS

  1. Verbal assault on illegal immigrants Through its final National Register of Citizens (NRC), Assam has already published a list of non-Indians — mostly ‘illegal’ Bangladeshi immigrants. It’s another story that many of those declared non-Indians in the NRC are Hindus and the BJP is understandably worried about their exclusion from the list. This could be owing to the fact that people migrating from Bangladesh are mostly Hindu Dalits. Parties like the BJP and the Shiv Sena have been blaming ‘secular’ political parties for treating these immigrants as a vote bank. The BJP has promised that once it comes to power in states where it has not yet established a foothold, it will oust all such immigrants from India. At a rally in Kolkata, Amit Shah had last week vowed that “each and every infiltrator in India will be shown the door”

  2. So just for the sake of writing the author will write anything without whatsoever knowledge in economics it seems. Bangladesh has a nominal per capita GDP 25% less than India and on PPP basis the per capita GDP of Bangladesh is significantly lower than India. Around 40%.The purchasing power of Bangladeshi population is much lower compared to the Indian population. To bridge such a gap a long time is required. It is not possible by any means by 2020. And no organization has predicted that Bangladesh will surprise India in per capita income by 2020. I challenge the author to site his source. Moreover, the totally economically ignorant author has projected Bangladesh as manufacturing hib when the reality is that only 20% of the GDP of Bangladesh is contributed by the manufacturing sector compared to 24% of India. I have no clue what the author is talking about. It’s a fact that Bangladesh is growing fast but not as fast as the author’s imagination. I would really like to know his credentials in the field of economics. You need some serious economics lessons before writing such bizzare articles.

  3. The author is just biased and propagating a falsehood. He failed miserably to establish any connection between growth of Bangladesh and Amit Shah’s termite remark. If B.Desh is growing faster than India one plausible reason is it does not has to carry unwaranted additional load of migrants. Just push 5 million migrants into Bangladesh and see what happens. If India manages to grow at the rate of 6-7 % annually with additional load of around 100 million migrants then is it not a miracle? The author appears to be an active member of the so called left liberal drummers group who are totally disengaged with the continuously changing India. The piece is just a rubbish.

  4. Author please understand that irrespective of political class discourse

    1. Taxpayer permission should be taken to fund illegal migrants.
    2. I am Tax Payer & don’t want illegal migrants in.
    3. If required lets vote to decide we require illegal migrants or not.
    4. If BD so much progressive let it accept Rohingyas from India.
    5. Without compromise NRC to be prepared.
    Politician should not funding illegal migrants, Tax payer should decide.

  5. It is a good thing that Bangladesh is prospering. There should be reverse migration now. Illegal migrants should now be encouraged to go back. No sense overcrowding a poor country like India anymore. India has 1.2 bn people. Even if 1% migrates to Bangladesh they should be generous to take them all .

  6. Bangladesh has become a scapegoat for India’s anti-muslim Hindu nationalists and their sympathizers. Several recent studies showed that while their might some immigration from Bangladesh to neighboring states of India took place in the 1970s and 1980s, there is almost non-existent so-called infiltration of Bangladeshis to India. The real problem in India is the pathetic treatment of its Muslim citizens. Even before the partition, In West Bengal, there were close to 45 percent Muslims inhabitants, in Assam 32 percent and in Tripura more than 30 percent. Over the years, they have been marginalized to the extent that the majority of them are illiterate with little political and economic power. Hence the Hindu nationalists call them now Bangladeshis in their Muslim-bashing campaign.

    Per capita GDP of Bangladesh is almost double the neighboring Indian states, and the gap is only increasing. Only half-wit Hindu jingoists can come up with the idea that people will leave from an economically better place to hostile more impoverished regions to seek a better life.

  7. If Bangladesh is so much booming, then why do these Rohingya immigrants don’t goto Bangladesh instead of India? It makes logically more sense to goto their original home country where the culture and religion is same. Beats me. NOT.

  8. Use some logic, stupid. Their GDP is increasing on an extremely narrow base, and a small basket of goods. Even assuming there is some co-relation in the two things, is it your case that we should admit more illegal migrants? If adding illegal migrants was the short-Cut to economic growth, all countries would have open doors, no passport no Visa. How are the two things connected? “My friend went to latrine and after coming out, he died; hence going to latrine and coming out is the cause of his death. Henceforth I will never enter latrine and if I enter, I will never come out!” 🤣😂😜. Kahaan ki baat kahaan le JAA rahe ho??????

  9. All of my colleagues. Let’s believe the fact that there are 700000 Indians living and working in Bangladesh Illegally according to BD government register survey. Add to that there are 500000 Indians legally living and working in Bangladesh according to register government survey. In my uncle’s factory there are 250 Indians working. If you want proof come and see …I will introduce all of them to you… Bangladesh government policies are related to increase the GDP growth…They have done all the survey related to foreigners . But right now they are focused in Economic development. That is the first goal of BD government. So now foreigners are not having any issues, but near future Within next five years you are gonna see the difference…My advise to all of my colleagues don’t be emotional just read international journals and research more, you will find the true fact and don’t just forcefully dictate your opinions…

    • “Let’s believe the fact” and “true facts” type phrases show that while Bangladesh may have improved economically, you still couldn’t afford good English education.

      And yes I’ll like to come and meet the 250 Indians working at your uncle’s factory. Where do I come?

  10. Bangladesh is already a rich country where people from all over the world want to immigrate. People from India China EU America and not to mention ASEAN are waiting in queue to enter legally or illegally. Unlike India Bangladesh has a big heart and will allow all of them. I have already applied and waiting for work permit. I will be entering whether o get it or not by next year. Hoping to see you there Dilip Mandal

    • Some aliens had also applied for work visa. But Bangladesh government has kept the request on hold.
      No special treatments in bangladesh. First come first serve basis only.

  11. Where is detailed data. Secondly, comparing statehood with economic data is of no relevance. Do you mean that all refugees from different countries migrating to India should be given citizenship? What a rubbish thought.

    • Who wants to migrate to India as it is now? Other countries like Bangladesh are soon going to be richer. Start worrying about the emigration to BD.

      • Rajiv smart people are already entering BD legally or like termites. Unlike Sanghis jamait e islami of BD is welcoming them with open arms. If you don’t apply now it will take a decades. Instead of fighting with sanghis and wasting time we should start our journey to BD asap

          • I have applied and keeping fingers crossed. But my hope and prayers are for all of us to get it. Hoping to meet you , Dileep there. Heard that jamat is building world’s biggest church in Dhaka. We should try to live close to that church. Unlike Sanghis jamait is big hearted and mainly involved in secular activities and building churchrs

      • Rajiv, you are welcome in bangladesh. Don’t waste your time commenting on stupid articles by backward Indians. Come quickly.
        Maulanas are eager to recieve you!

    • Detailed data will never be seen by people who live in a cocoon of personal bias. The western countries say the same thing about Indian immigrants. Why don’t you bring them back instead of holding jamborees there?

  12. Additionally, there are about half a million Indians living in bangladesh and working illegally according to bd governments estimate. This number does not even take into account of Bihari refugees, sweeper community who mostly consists of dolit hindi speaking hindues and hindi speaking tea garden workers.

    Illegal population is not even an issue in Bangladesh. Which is why you indians never hear about it and probably won’t even believe that this is actually true. I assume in the future when bangladeshis will get tired of hearing amit Shah’s anti bangladeshi bakbak , then you will see us throwing this out at your face as a getback

  13. What a rubbish post. We need to kick out illegal immigrants as well as grow our economy, there is no either or, both are required.

    • If you do not know who the immigrants are how are you going to remove them. All this is nothing but political rhetoric! Why does anyone want to come to India?

  14. Bangladesh will NEVER be better than INDIA, never!
    As a patriotic Indian Muslim who can prove his citizenship, via my birth certificate, both my parents birth certificate, and all four grandparents birth certificates. My ancestral home built in 1870 is also proof we have lived as Muslims in this Hindu country for hundreds of years.
    That we should throw these Muslim termites out. They give loyal Muslims like us living in a Hindu Rashtra a very bad name.
    PLEASE UNDERSTAND, I AM A MUSLIM AND A PROUD BJP VOTER AND AN ADMIRER OF NARENDRA MOD, I HAVE DECIDED FOR THE SAKE OF MY HINDU BROTHERS NOT TO EAT MEAT.
    FOR THE SAKE OF MY HINDU BROTHERS I WILL NEVER MARRY A HINDU GIRL OR DO LOVE JIHAD.
    India is the greatest nation in the whole world. I am so proud to be an Indian. We are people of the most ancient civilisation. We have thousands of years of culture Behind us. I am so proud of my Hindu brothers, I am so proud of their rich culture, the traditions of Hindi and Sanskrit.
    I am wondering why my ancestors choose to leave Hinduism and embrace Islam. I am seriously thinking of leaving this Religion of the invader and the Terrorist and embracing Hinduism. I know if I convert to Hinduism I shall have to adopt a lower caste for myself, I can never be a Brahmin, but that is the price well worth paying For being part of this great caste system, the rich stories from the past, and this great Hindu religion.
    Jai Shri Ram

    • Mohmmad Hanif all Hindus will welcome you if you convert.
      Although as a Hindu you will be accepted only by us as a person of low caste, as a Brahmin I can assure you that you enter a great religion, in which it’s better to be the lowest caste than a Muslim.

      • When you have a caste system where people are discriminated against. How can that be a great religion? A Brahmin is no better than anyone else.

    • You are blinded by the BJP/RSS. Why should you not eat what you want to eat? You have your own Religion does the BJP/RSS respect your religious views on food? No. I doubt you are a Muslim at all just another BJP idiot talking a false game!

  15. The fact that Mr. Mandal was the managing editor of India Today simply reflects the abysmal depth to which Indian journalism has sunk in recent years. Such an article would be unworthy of publication even in a rundown newspaper/magazine.

    • Mr. Bakshi. What rubbish do you write? What is your level of English comprehension? Have you understood what the author is saying? Or are you deliberately ignoring what he is saying?

      • Rajiv smart people like us who are waiting for Bangladesh immigration will understand. Sanghis like Mr Bakshi will not and call our future home citizens as termites.

          • Rajiv looks like you are a Sanghi who wants to stay in India. You insulting me just because I want to go to a rich country like Bangladesh for economic improvement of our blighted life is upsetting. You Sanghis has made India poorest country in the world , dirtiest and didn’t allow minorities to even eat. Jamath is known for irlts love of people and expresses it by making love to all religion ladies. Sanghis like you will not understand. Please don’t be sarcastic.

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