The first “detention camp” in Assam is almost ready and it’s time to do the math. The camp getting its finishing touches in Goalpara, Assam, will house 3,000 ‘illegal’ immigrants and, according to Assam’s government, the bill for it will total ₹45 crore. But the Assam government’s looking ahead to a time when it may need much more room for its ‘illegals’, and it’s sent a proposal to the Centre for assistance to build 10 more camps. Simple arithmetic suggests it will cost ₹450 crore to house 30,000 immigrants if the first camp’s price-tag is anything to go by. The final NRC list, released on August 31, cut the number of ‘illegals’ to 1.9 million from four million. The Home Ministry now has ruled those found to be illegal will get 120 days to file appeals in the State. There are currently 100 foreigners’ tribunals and the government’s planning to establish another 300. Informally, officials indicate many appeals should be successful and 5,00,000 people will end up classed as ‘illegals’. For them, the final stop will, very likely, be detention camps.

Clearly, the government will need to go on a massive building spree to house all the ‘illegals’. At 3,000 in each camp, the State will need around 160 camps. The cost of building these camps could be some ₹7,500 crore, or $1 billion. Then, there’ll be expenses of setting up and running the tribunals, which currently have six members. That will amount to 2,500-3,500 legally trained members capable of sifting through evidence from documents and witnesses. Finally, camp inmates will have to be fed, clothed and looked after as they’re unlikely to be allowed to work. Children will also have to attend schools.

Add these sums to the ₹1,200 crore already incurred in ‘hunting down’ the ‘illegals’. Also, consider the Central government’s talking about setting up camps in other States for illegal immigrants. Clearly, illegal immigrants and detention camps to house them are a new sunrise sector in the economy that’s poised for boom times.

The author is an Editorial Consultant with The Hindu BusinessLine