Assam: Inner Line Permit Is Not An Effective Gatekeeper But Kills Tourism And Investment Effectively; The Centre Must Reject It
Introducing ILP to Assam will only deter tourists, traders, businessmen and business visitors from entering the state.
It will have a deleterious effect on the state and its economy.
A 13-member committee constituted by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to suggest measures to implement Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord has suggested, among various other measures, the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system for all those visiting Assam.
The committee, headed by Justice (retired) Biplab Kumar Sarma, was constituted to recommend “constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people”.
The ILP was introduced in tribal areas of the North East by the British under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873 to protect the region’s tribals and indigenous people from large-scale influx of ‘outsiders’.
The ILP system is presently applicable to Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram. Under this, any citizen from any other state of the country has to obtain a permit issued by the state government to visit that particular state.
ILPs are usually valid for a week, and can be extended. Non-locals who wish to work or carry out business in those four states can apply for longer-term permits (for usually a year).
The rationale behind ILP is to restrict entry of people from other states into any of the states covered by the 1873 act.
But implementing the ILP in Assam will severely affect not only tourism, but also trade, commerce and investments in the state.
The ILP is, all said and done, a deterrent for visiting a state covered by the system. Indians wishing to visit any of the four states have to obtain the permit from the liaison offices of these states located in the major metropolitan cities of the country.
Visitors can also apply online and get e-ILPs. Some of the states, like Mizoram, also have the system of ‘ILP on arrival’ at the airport.
Apart from the hassle of filling up forms and submitting citizenship documents (like passport, Aadhaar card or voter ID card) and getting the permit, the week-long validity of an ILP is also an irritant for those intending to stay in a state for a longer period.
Assam has been pitching itself as an attractive tourist destination, and imposing restrictions like ILP will be counter-productive. Tourist inflows into Assam will definitely decline very sharply if the ILP system is introduced in the state.
Assam is also hungry for investments and is majorly dependent on agricultural produce, goods and services from the rest of the country. Trade and commerce form a major share of the state’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The ILP is a sure-shot way of discouraging investments. Potential investors and business executives, as well as traders and businessmen from the rest of the country, will find the task of obtaining a permit an irritant.
Trade bodies say that business visitors could not be bothered with obtaining permits and will give Assam a miss.
Introducing the ILP to Assam will achieve nothing by way of achieving the objectives of the Assam Accord. The greatest threat that Assam’s indigenous people face is illegal entry by Bangladeshis into the state.
But that illegal immigration through the porous Indo-Bangladeshi border is down to a trickle now and with the scare over National Register of Citizens, has most likely got reversed.
Many mechanisms are already in place to detect illegal immigrants who have already entered Assam over the years and more are in the pipeline.
The ILP will not address this issue at all and will, conversely, deter Indians from the rest of the country from travelling to Assam as tourists, traders or business executives.
Also, the ILP is ineffective in checking unauthorised entry of people into a state that's under the purview of the 1873 act. That's because inter-state borders are not fenced or sealed and simply slipping across such borders is easier.
ILPs are checked only at the entry points (road check gates, railway stations and airports) to the four states (where the ILP system is in force).
Anyone wishing to enter those states without an ILP can do by avoiding the formal entry points and slipping in through unguarded and unfenced (and mostly undemarcated) inter-state borders.
Introducing ILP to Assam will, thus, only deter tourists, traders, businessmen and business visitors from entering Assam. And that will have a deleterious effect on the state and its economy.
This recommendation by the committee, thus, needs to be rejected by the Union government.
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