Bengaluru, Jan 25 : The document verification drive of plantation workers in Kodagu was a routine exercise, without any motive to unearth illegal aliens, a police officer said on Saturday.
“We regularly verify the documents of plantation workers. This was another routine verification, which happens every year. Unnecessarily, the exercise has been blown out of proportion and linked to unrelated developments,” Kodagu Superintendent of Police Suman D. Penneker told IANS.
Penneker said the verification drive was not aimed at any illegal migrants from other countries but only at migrant labour within India.
“The main intention of the verification drive was to curb crime because a lot of heinous and non-heinous crime took place in the past, done by outsiders and the estate owners do not know who they were,” she said.
On Thursday, Kodagu police verified the documents of 5,000 migrant labourers, advising 500 of them to revisit the police with more documents in a week’s time.
The verification drive occurred in Madikeri, Somvarpet Taluk and Virajpet.
“All the people whose documents were verified were from India, nobody from Bangladesh. The drive was not aimed at identifying Bangladeshis but verifying Indian migrant labour,” said Penneker.
According to Penneker, there was no instance or case of finding an illegal alien even after verifying the documents.
“This exercise has finally helped us to remove that notion from the people that the migrant labourers are Bangladeshis. They are one of us, we have verified their documents,” said Penneker.
However, this year, the police changed the methodology of verification, said Penneker.
“This time, we changed the methodology of verification and it was not summoning anyone. We were just asking them to give the details. We did online verification as some will have fake documents, enabling us to easily rule out fake documents,” said Penneker.
The officer said the whole verification was community initiative driven. Though the police asked only a few plantation owners to send their workers for verification, a whole lot of others also joined in.
“They volunteered. They brought their labourers for verification and the whole exercise turned out to be bigger than intended,” she said.
Penneker clarified that the verification drive lasted only half a day and was not continuing as quoted by some reports.
“Unlike what was reported, the labourers were not made to stand in long queues. In fact, after the verification, most resumed their work in the estates,” said Penneker.
Complaints from locals, plantation owners, organisations and associations against the migrant labourers coming from various parts of the country is a regular affair, leading to police keeping an eye on the workers.
“Locals complain of suspicious movement, allege that the labourers are Bangladeshis who are targeting some place,” she said.
Though some locals demanded district wide verification, Penneker said she could not do it.
However, the police regularly visit the estates and collect details.
“Many media houses tried to link it with the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, but it was not so. Though the media has exaggerated the verification drive, it was very well taken by the local population,” said Penneker.