7 PM I The Misadventure of new citizenship regime I 27th November, 2019

Context: All India National Register of Citizens (NRC).

More in news:

  • On November 20, Union home minister Amit Shah said in Parliament that the Nation Register of Citizens (NRC) would be prepared for every state in the country. 

National Register of Citizens (NRC):

  • The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register containing names of all genuine Indian citizens. At present, only Assam has such a register. 
  • The NRC in Assam is basically a list of Indian citizens living in the state. The citizens’ register sets out to identify foreign nationals in the state that borders Bangladesh.
  • The process to update the register began following a Supreme Court order in 2013, with the state’s nearly 33 million people having to prove that they were Indian nationals prior to March 24, 1971.
  • The updated final NRC was released on August 31, with over 1.9 million applicants failing to make it to the list.

Citizenship:

  • According to UNESCO, citizenship can be defined as “the status of having the right to participate in and to be represented in politics.”  It is a collection of rights and obligations that give individuals a formal juridical identity.
  • The Citizenship Act, 1955 provides various ways in which citizenship may be acquired. It provides for citizenship by birth, descent, registration, naturalization and by incorporation of territory into India. In addition, it regulates registration of Overseas Citizen of India Cardholders (OCIs), and their rights. An Overseas Citizen of India is entitled to some benefits such as a multiple-entry, multi-purpose life-long visa to visit India.
  • Under the Citizenship Act, 1955, a person born in India or having Indian parentage or having resided in India for at least 11 years, is eligible for Indian citizenship.
  • Under the Citizenship Act, a person who enters India without valid travel documents or enters with valid documents, but stays beyond the permitted duration, are illegal immigrants. They can be jailed under the Foreigners Act, 1946, and Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920. The government has exempted the following minority groups- Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who reached India on or before Dec 31, 2014, from the two detention laws

How are NRC and NPR different?

  • In the 2011 Census, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was to be a subset of the National Population Register (NPR), which is a register of the usual residents of a country.
  • The National Population Register (NPR) is a Register of usual residents of the country. It is being prepared at the local (Village/sub-Town), sub-District, District, State and National level under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR. A usual resident is defined for the purposes of NPR as a person who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.
  • Unlike NRC, NPR is not a citizenship enumeration drive; it would also include a foreigner staying in an area for more than six months.
  • NPR is verified data of all Indian residents, linking the 12-digit biometric-based unique identification number, Aadhaar, with demographic data collected by Census enumerators.

Issues with an all India NRC:

  • Resources required:
    • According to the latest estimate of the Assam NRC coordinator’s office, around Rs 1,600 crore was spent for conducting the exercise, in which around 50,000 state govt employees were deployed. This does not include the money spent on building and running detention centres for illegal immigrants and for the working of Foreigners Tribunals.
    • On this basis, and taking as an indicative number the Indian electorate of 87.9 crore, a nationwide NRC would require an outlay of ₹4.26 lakh crore, which is more than double the presumptive loss in the 2G scam, and four times the budgetary outlay for education this year.
    • The work of “authenticating” 87.9 crore people would entail the deployment of 1.33 crore officials. However in 2011-12, the total number of government employees in India was 2.9 crore.
    • In simple words, the entire population of India and more than half of its government employees will be involved in the reckoning process of counting and being counted for at least next 10 years.
  • Constitutional provisions:
    • There is uncertainty about cut-off date. March 1971 has little relevance beyond Assam.
    • The speculation about a July 1948 date for the rest of India is implausible in light of constitutional provisions provided from Articles 5 to 11 in Part II of Indian constitution and the enactment of the Citizenship Act in 1955.
    • There is federal imperative of seeking consent from the state governments. The success of NRC will depend on the cooperation of the state governments since they will be the ones who will be required to provide logistics for this massive exercise.
  • Features of Citizenship Amendment Bill: Both Citizenship Amendment Bill and NRC go hand in hand.
    • The Bill amends the Act to provide that that the following groups of persons will not be treated as illegal migrants:
    • Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan,
    • who have been exempted from provisions of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, and the Foreigners Act, 1946 by the central government. The 1920 Act mandates foreigners to carry passport, while the1946 Act regulates the entry and departure of foreigners in India.  
    • Under the present citizenship law, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalisation is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, as well as for 11 of the previous 14 years. The amendment relaxes the second requirement from 11 years to 6 years as a specific condition for applicants belonging to these six religions, and the aforementioned three countries.
  • Shift from jus soli to jus sanguinis:
    • ‘jus soli’ confers citizenship on the basis of place of birth, ‘jus sanguinis’ gives recognition to blood ties.
    • From the time of the Motilal Nehru Committee (1928), the Indian leadership was in favour of the enlightened concept of jus soli.
    • The racial idea of jus sanguinis was also rejected by the Constituent Assembly as it was against the Indian ethos.
    • In 2004, an exception to birth-based citizenship was created for individuals born in India but having one parent who was an illegal migrant (impliedly Bangladeshi Muslim) at the time of their birth.
    • The CAB and the NRC will only consolidate this shift to a jus sanguinis citizenship regime.
    • Constitutionally, India is a political community whose citizens avow the idea of the nation as a civic entity, transcending ethnic differences.
    • The NRC-CAB combination signals a transformative shift from a civic-national conception to an ethno-national conception of India

Conclusion:

India, as a country which follows the ideology of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, should not be hasty in taking decisions that can disenfranchise her citizens contradicting its centuries-followed values. An overly legal approach will only produce more tension, insecurity and anxiety among citizens. The huge resources required in the process of counting the citizens for NRC can be utilized in a more productive manner.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-misadventure-of-a-new-citizenship-regime/article30090226.ece

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