(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Who visit India most? Bangladeshis. And I am not talking about illegal immigrants which are vote banks in Bengal and Assam, for instance. Most take the visa route, mainly for shopping or medical care but quite a few have work visas and they overstay.
All of this would have been routine but for the news that Bangladeshis who work abroad are acquiring fake Corona Virus negative certificates through a friendly specialist hospital and zipping off to their destinations. They of course don’t mind putting their lives at risk—or spreading infection in countries who are their hosts.
On Wednesday, the Bangladeshi authorities had one Mohammad Shahed arrested at the India border who had disguised himself as a woman and covered himself in a back burqa from head to toe.
The authorities didn’t swoop down on Shahed because he had a long criminal record—which he did have—but for the repugnant act of issuing fake Corona certificates to anyone who could cough up $50 per person. He could do this because he ran a hospital in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.
Millions of Bangladeshis work in Europe and elsewhere.
Malaysia, for instance, was willing to pay visa fee, airfares, medical recruitment agency commissions and levies for Bangladeshi workers before the Corona-induced break didn’t allow pen-to-paper over the agreement. Malaysia has as many as eight lakh Bangladeshis working in their country.
In Europe, it’s a common sight to see them filling up the grocery stores, cleaning tables, cooking in Tandoori restaurants or just selling bottled water on the streets. While walking in Florence last year, I saw a stream of Bangladeshis on the road leading up to iconic Duomo cathedral. Most of the stuff bore the mark of world-famous Italian brands which of course were fake.
The makers of such duplicates are once again seeking out customers now that roads have begun to fill up and shutters are going up in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. They require the affable Bangladeshis to return, who are all keen to oblige, and are circumventing the rules through such men of compassion as Shahed.
Many of such workers of course are a great help to their mother country, bringing in billions of dollars of remittance but Corona Virus pandemic has been a body blow, most who came back home haven’t been able to return and live the good life again.
Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, makes up for 20 percent of India’s all foreign visitors. Last year, the Indian embassy in Dhaka issued 15 lakh visas to locals. So much so that Dhaka alone has three of seven Indian visa centres in Bangladesh. These are legal visitors and must not be confused with millions of illegals who sneak into India, your proverbial car-cleaner or maids whose presence in home chores keep your wife in good humour.
Then there are factory workers who you would think India doesn’t need having an abundance of poor and destitute men of their own. Yet they come, like Mohammed Saidul Rahman (22), Mohammed Abdul Wahab (28) Mohammed Emdadul (35) and Mohammed Alittan Ali (42) who were arrested in Kollam, Kerala in the midst of Corona Virus in May for continuing to work in a cashew nut factory even though their visas had expired.
Having such an obliging neighbour like India, you would think, keeps Bangladesh grateful. Not the least. Bangladesh foreign minister A.K. Abdul Momen cancelled his visit to India just before lockdowns on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Interestingly, the argument by the VVIP was not the exclusion of his native Muslims from acquiring Indian citizenship, it was to contend that India was awarding citizenship to minorities even though they were not persecuted in the Islamic republic of Bangladesh, as they were in two other Islamic neighbourhood nations, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Corona certificate scam should sober up those who clamour that India is discriminating against Muslims under CAA. Leave aside Rohingya Muslims for whom copious tears are shed, Corona carriers on fake certificates from across the border could be a serious health hazard emanating from such compassion.