In a stunning declaration, the government on Wednesday informed Rajya Sabha that around two crore illicit Bangladeshi transients are unlawfully staying in India.
"As per available inputs, there are around 20 million illegal Bangladeshi migrants staying in India," Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju informed Rajya Sabha replying a written question.
Rijiju said there are reports of Bangladeshi nationals having entered the country without valid travel documents.
Since entry of such Bangladeshi nationals into the country is clandestine and surreptitious, it is not possible to have accurate data of such Bangladeshi nationals living in various parts of the country, he said.
Rijiju said deportation of illegal staying foreign national is continuous process.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had said that "Bangladeshis" will be deported if he comes to power.
"They have been given the red carpet welcome by politicians just for votes. You can write it down. After May 16, these Bangladeshis better be prepared with their bags packed," Modi had said at an election rally in Serampore in West Bengal, which shares a porous border with Bangladesh.
Assam and West Bengal are considered to be the worst hit due to the alleged illegal infiltration from Bangladesh. Assam had witnessed a six-year-long agitation between 1979-85 against the illegal immigrants.
Illegal immigration from Bangladesh has been a major issue for many students, social and political organisations in the Northeast.
The 2014 election manifesto of BJP said that the party will review and improve the border management and "punitive measures will be introduced to check illegal immigration".
The BJP said it will address the issue of infiltration and illegal immigrants in the Northeast region on a priority basis and this will include clear policy directions and effective control at the ground level.
Bangladesh and India share a 4,096-kilometer long international border.
During the UPA government, the then Union Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal had made a statement in the Parliament on July 14, 2004 saying there were over 12 million illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators living in different parts of the country.
In his reply to a Parliamentary question, Jaiswal had said out of the estimated 12 million illegal migrants, 5 million were present in Assam alone, as of December 31, 2001, while West Bengal topped the list with 5.7 million Bangladeshis.
Jaiswal's reply provoked the then Congress government in Assam to voice its strong protest and matters soon reached Prime Minister's Office.
Soon, Jaiswal was forced to retract his statement and "correct his reply" in the House.
(With inputs from PTI)