Assam govt exceeds HC deadline for transit camp construction

GUWAHATI, Oct 25 : The Assam government has exceeded the 45-day deadline set by the Gauhati High Court for the completion of construction works of a standalone detention centre, now called ‘transit camp’, for declared ‘foreigners’.

Assam’s Home Department officials on Monday said that construction works of the standalone detention centre or ‘transit camp’ at Matia in western Assam’s Goalpara district was almost complete.

The first ever detention centre in Goalpara district is being constructed on 25 acres of land at a cost of Rs 64 crore where around 3,000 inmates can be lodged.

A separate school and a hospital among other facilities is also being set up in the exclusive detention centre.

“The state government has sought some more time to complete the remaining works of the detention centre and the necessary formalities. The residual works are going on in a war footing manner,” an official of the home department said, refusing to be named.

The Gauhati High Court had on August 11 directed the state government to complete the construction of the detention centre in Goalpara within 45 days.

Hearing a petition on the detention centres, Justice Kalyan Rai Surana in August had observed: “…The State envisaged that the construction of detention centre at Matia, Goalpara would be completed by September 2021… the learned Advocate General has prayed for allowing six weeks’ time to complete the construction of the proposed detention centre and to shift the detenues of the various detention centres…”

The Home and Political Department of the Assam government had issued a notification in August in partial modification of a June 2009 notification changing the nomenclature of detention centre to ‘transit camp’ for detention purposes.

The detention centres, or transit camps as they will be called now, since 2008 are located within the central jails of Dibrugarh, Goalpara, Jorhat, Kokrajhar, Silchar and Tezpur and there are 177 inmates (declared foreigners) in these six existing detention centres.

In three of these centres — Kokrajhar, Silchar and Tezpur — are housed 22 children along with their nine ‘foreigner’ mothers. Of the 22 children, two are above 14 years and 20 children are below 14 years.

So far 29 declared “foreigners” died in these centers while many were granted bail since 2009.

After being declared as “foreigners” by the quasi-judicial body — Foreigners’ Tribunals — they are sent to the detention centres.

After the Assam police’s Border wing serves notice to the “suspected people on suspicion of being foreigners” the Foreigners’ Tribunals tried their cases.

The Central government in 2014 had asked the Assam government to set up at least one exclusive detention centre for foreigners or “illegal immigrants” without keeping them in the existing jails where prisoners and undertrials are staying due to various crimes.

The Assam government had earlier planned to construct 10 separate and exclusive detention centres considering the number of people who would ultimately be left out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The standalone detention centre at Matia in Goalpara district is the first among the 10 planned such centers.

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