BJP leaders may need a reality check about Bangladesh’s role
The political areas of two Indian states -- Assam and West Bengal -- look very interesting. Quite a lot of hullaballoo started since Assam disclosed that they had four million people unregistered as citizens.
The chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, has been angered by this. On the other hand, the BJP leaders are very annoyed at her for her anger.
I’m following the mudslinging there, and I think it’s quite amusing. One BJP leader in West Bengal has suddenly found relevance of Bangladesh in all those unregistered people. Although he’s not alone in making slurs on Bangladesh regarding the issue, his comments seemed quite outstanding to me.
Ali Hossain, the BJP Minority Morcha president, has been criticizing Mamata Banerjee on this issue. He reportedly said: BJP has taken a 100% sound decision. There’s a crisis relating to Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians in Bangladesh; they’re coming here as refugees.
But there’s no crisis relating to the Muslims there. This illegal infiltration cannot be tolerated. If we crossed the border and wanted to stay in Bangladesh, would they give us shelter? Not at all. They would term us as infiltrators and send us to jail.”
Anandabazar Patrika has published this news recently.
Time will tell what will happen to the four million unregistered people of Assam, and Indian politicians and analysts are analyzing the issue for a possible solution. However, the subject of my column today isn’t those four million people.
I would like to provide some information to leaders such as Ali Hossain about how Bangladesh has been playing the role of a provider of India. Leaders such as him think that Bangladeshis are entering in their country illegally and grabbing their wealth. I wonder whether Mr Hossain is informed about how Bangladesh has been helping India all along since its independence in 1971.
Listen up, Ali Hossain.
We in Bangladesh believe that Bangladesh hasn’t been playing the role of a receiver; rather, we have always been a giver. According to a report in 2015, Bangladesh is the fifth largest remittance-earning country for India. Indian citizens working in Bangladesh send $3.7 billion to their country. Can you imagine how many Indian rupees you get from our country? You may rethink your anti-Bangladesh attitude.
We also want to see that you arrest all those who have illegally entered India. You should, of course, send them back. However, you may not know that there are many Indians who have also been working in Bangladesh illegally and remitting money to India without any problem. Have we ever admonished them or sent them to jail?
You may also not know that those Indians have been working in high-profile jobs here without any permission from the Bangladesh government. And sir, how do you treat Bangladeshis in your country? All of them are either coolies or day labourers.
Let’s go to the New Market area of Kolkata city. What do you see there? Who are the residents in the hotels there, and who are the buyers of Indian goods in your shopping malls there? Bangladeshis are pouring out their money in your hotels, shops, and tourist sites, not Indians, Mr Hossain.
The shopkeepers of Kolkata say that 90% of their profits come from the Bangladeshis during Eid and Puja seasons. About 150,000 Bangladeshis go to India for shopping during those seasons and the Indian High Commission in Dhaka issues 100,000 visas to Bangladeshis.
The reason that you issue visas is quite obvious. You also know very well that those “foolish” Bangladeshis would spend all their money on your shops and hotels. Imagine each Bangladeshi is spending $1,000. Can you imagine how much money we spend in your country? We don’t understand why you hate us so much even after us giving you so much money. We don’t hate Indians.
Let’s visit your hospitals. You have great medical treatment facilities, which are way better than many countries’. According to the statistics of the Indian government, a total of 460,000 foreigners have bought medical treatment in India in 2015-16. Of them, 165,000 were from Bangladesh, which is 35% of those seeking medical treatment in your country.
And there are many Bangladeshis who go there without visas. They cross the border to seek medical treatment and come back. If you compute them, Bangladeshis are 50% among the foreigners buying medical treatment in your country. According to the Business Standard, Bangladeshis spend $343 million in your health care sector.
Now, let’s have a look at how many Bangladeshi tourists go to India and spend their money. According to a BBC report, quoting Indian sources, about 1.7 million Bangladeshis visit Indian tourist sites. Bangladeshis are after Americans who go to India as tourists. A decade ago, Bangladeshis weren’t even among the first 10.
The Indian government estimated that Bangladeshis then were less than 2% of those visiting India. Now it has increased to 14%.
So you see how Bangladesh has been helping you. Have you ever thought about it? Have you considered the contribution of Bangladeshis to your economic development? Let me just remind you that I haven’t mentioned how we have been one of the best buyers of your automobiles.
Bangladesh has always been giving you; you haven’t given anything to us except your visas. Therefore, please think before commenting on Bangladesh and Bangladeshis.
It’s you who are the receivers. You may think of requesting your government to officially thank Bangladesh for its contributions that enrich your lives.
Ekram Kabir is a story-teller and a columnist.