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Panel suggests NRC in Odisha’s Kendrapara

The wording of the letter to the Home Department, written on August 3, indicates that the committee shares the view of the amicus, even though the officer who sent it denied making any suggestion about NRC.

Written by Sampad Patnaik | Bhubaneswar |
Updated: August 7, 2019 6:51:14 am
Odisha, Odisha NRC, Naveen patnaik, Kendrapara, Kendrapara NRC, Bhitarkanika, Chilika wetlands, Orissa High Court, Indian express Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik. (File photo)

A court-endorsed committee comprising high-ranking Odisha government officials, which oversees wetland conservation and protection in the state, has suggested to the Home Department to initiate processes to implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in coastal Kendrapara district.

Documents accessed by The Indian Express indicate the suggestion for NRC was received from amicus curiae Mohit Agarwal, who is assisting the Odisha High Court on monitoring protection of Bhitarkanika and Chilika wetlands in the state.

The wording of the letter to the Home Department, written on August 3, indicates that the committee shares the view of the amicus, even though the officer who sent it denied making any suggestion about NRC.

In the letter, Director, Environment, and Special Secretary, Forest, K Murugesan wrote, “I am directed to intimate that as per the decision taken in the fourth meeting of the Committee… held on 24.06.2019 under the Chairmanship of Additional Chief Secretary, F&E Department, the Government of India may be kindly requested to grant permission for preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens in respect of Kendrapara District.”

Explained

Ecology threat from illegal immigrants

Bhitarkanika’s wetland ecology is said to be under threat from illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, who are involved in prawn cultivation in protected areas without permission. Prawn is cultivated “by intensive culture by digging earthen ponds (and) filling them with salty water and using chemicals”, HC-appointed amicus curiae Mohit Agarwal had submitted to the Additional Chief Secretary, Forest and Environment Department, in June.

Murugesan told The Indian Express over the phone that the committee had merely received and forwarded a request. “This (NRC) was not the government’s request. We conveyed the request of the amicus curiae to the Home Department,” he said.

“The committee is concerned with protection of wetlands only. We are evicting encroachers, and this has nothing to do with Bangladeshi immigrants,” Additional Chief Secretary, Forest and Environment Department, S C Mahapatra, said.

The issue of thousands of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in Odisha came to the fore after the Supreme Court’s direction (M K Balakrishna vs Union of India) two years ago to the chief justices of high courts of 15 states to take up the issue of conservation of ecology of important wetlands through suo motu PILs.

The Orissa High Court had subsequently taken up the issue for restoration of ecology of Bhitarkanika National Park and Chilika Lake, and appointed Agarwal amicus in the matter.

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