Centre then dropped the proposal to issue identity cards in Assam

In 1965, the Union government urged Assam to expedite compilation of a register of citizens and to issue identity cards on the basis of this register to Indian citizens in the State, at least in select areas.

In the same year, the State government submitted a scheme to the Ministry of Home Affairs for providing a barbed wire fence on vulnerable stretches of the Assam-East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) border. The Ministry decided to fence a few key sectors on the border. However, owing to shortage of barbed wire and other factors, the project could not get off the ground, and eventually, by 1966, the Central government, in consultation with the State government, dropped the proposal to issue identity cards as it found the project impracticable.

This was revealed in a “White Paper on Foreigners Issue” brought out by the Home and Political Department of Assam that was released by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi here on Saturday. The event coincided with a visit by Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to the Dhubri sector of the Assam-Bangladesh border during the day to inspect border guarding measures.

Mr. Shinde travelled to the Sishumara and Mankachar areas of the border on a speed boat for a first-hand assessment of the ground situation in riverine areas along the international border on which erection of barbed wire fence is not possible. He also reviewed the overall border guarding measures with senior officials of the Border Security Force.

After releasing the White Paper, Mr. Gogoi announced that photo-identity cards would be issued to voters in Assam after publication of the final photo electoral rolls. The first draft photo electoral rolls of Assam were published on Friday. Mr. Gogoi said the draft rolls contained the photographs of 84.31 per cent of voters.

The White Paper states that the State government was committed to updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) 1951 and preparation of a correct NRC in phases. All the procedural hurdles have now been removed and the Centre has been requested to bring about necessary changes in the rules and standard operating procedures for commencing the work.

On the progress of border-fencing, the White Paper has brought to light that Assam has completed 97 per cent of the work under phase I and II. Of the 224.69 km of border fencing sanctioned under phase I and II, work has been completed in 218.17 km. The total length of the Assam-Bangladesh border is 267.30 km

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