Opinion

Implementation of NPR and CAA will lead to catastrophic repercussions : M.W. Ansari

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The Union Government’s decision to announce and conduct NPR (National People Register) has led to another topic of controversy, when the nation continues to witness widespread protests amid the enactment of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and extrapolation of nationwide National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC).

The people are already suspicious about the CAA-NRIC and the decision to conduct NPR is nothing but will be only adding fuel to the fire, causing resentment, harassment, and apprehensions among the people, especially among the SC/ST/OBC, minorities and downtrodden common people.

The NPR is a demographic and biometric data of individuals living at the place of enumeration for six months or more. It  is a register of usual residents of the country, prepared at the local (village/sub-town), sub-district, district, state and national level under the provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

Why NPR is futile and fictitious exercise (in light of CAA-NRIC) ?

The need for NPR was born when the Kargil Defence Review Committee highlighted the importance to have verifiable identity documents of citizens for obvious security reasons. As per the law, it is now mandatory for every “usual resident of India” to register in the NPR, so as to enable the state to have a “comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country.”

However, it is argued that in light of CAA-NRIC agitations, the whole objective of NPR has become ambiguous and further due to the following reasons it may be considered deceitful:

Firstly, the NPR-NRIC is intrinsically linked, even though the government has sought to take a contradictory stand. Both find mention in the 2003 rules under the Citizenship Act, 1955 framed by the then NDA government in 2003. Under the rules the NPR is the register of usual residents of the country based on the demographic and biometric data of individuals living at the place of enumeration for six months or more. The NRIC on the other hand considers the citizens of the country and those living abroad and not everybody who is residing within the territorial boundaries of India. For this purpose, the 2003 Rules mention ‘doubtful citizens’.

The rules categorically states that during the preparation of NRIC, “during the verification process, particulars of such individuals, whose citizenship is doubtful, shall be entered by the Local Registrar with appropriate remark in the Population Register for further inquiry and in case of doubtful Citizenship, the individual or the family shall be informed in a specified proforma immediately after the verification process is over”.

It is therefore crystal clear that NRIC is a subset of NPR, being based on the latter. The doubtful citizens who fail to prove that there are not “doubtful” (after having gone through the process of claims and objections) will be excluded.

It is at this stage where apprehensions will arise among those who are required to establish and prove their citizenship. This will lead to untold misery, harassment and a feeling of resentment among the Muslims, SC/ST and poor community. The recent exclusion of the family of former President, ex CM of Assam and Kargil War veteran is a great proof.

Secondly, the government has approved Rs 8500 crore for the NPR exercise. It is argued that this is only a drain of financial resources. Data can be gathered with the help of Aadhaar  system which now cover most of the Indians. The system includes name, address, and date of birth, father/husband’s name and gender. In light of this, NPR becomes a wasteful and unnecessary exercise. It is better to utilize this estimated expenditure on measures and schemes that will benefit the disadvantaged sections of society, especially on Education, Health and most backward districts in all respects.  

Thirdly, there are issues of privacy. Through NPR, the government again intends to collect a much larger amount of personal data on residents of India and yet there is no clarity on the mechanism for the protection of such data.

Fourthly, as per the 2003 rules, the obligation for creating the NPR rests with the Bureaucracy which again leads to number of complications. The bureaucracy involved is fairly at a lower level, precise to say at junior and inexperienced level which is prone to succumb to the pressure of the political executive. Further it has the scope of being marred by discrimination, arbitration and not to mention large scale corruption.    

Thus, considering NPR in light of the foregoing concerns makes it a futile exercise. It is argued that the statement of the government particularly by the Home Minister that the NPR and NRIC are not related cannot be trusted as contradictory statements by ministers raise the suspicion.

The Government’s actions concerning abolition of Article 370, enactment of Triple Talaq Bill, and rising violence, discrimination against the SC/ST/OBC and minorities during the tenure of this present Government coupled with aggressive statements of high profile ministers have caused uneasiness among the SC/ST/OBC and among the people who are at the lowest level in society. The provisions of CAA and consequent push for the NPR which could form the basis of NRIC would only add the credence to the feeling that all these actions are aimed at selective targeting of particular communities.

The overall intentions of Government continue to be questionable when one goes through the CAA. The statute consciously excludes Muslim Community from its purview thereby again giving rise to apprehensions among the community .The Government supports the Act by formulating that the law intends to protect those facing persecution in three neighboring countries, but the Act nowhere mentions “persecution” or “religious minorities”. The intention of the Government through the act is discriminatory, morally untenable and against the Constitution. To see it in conjunction with NPR- NRIC, it speaks of Government’s delusion with “illegal migrants” which it perhaps identifies with one community i.e. Muslims and then in coming years perhaps the lower caste people especially SC/ST/OBC.

The Government and those who support CAA-NRIC, overlooks any factual and concrete data. As per the census statistics, illegal migrants are not present throughout the country but concentrated in some pockets of North Eastern and Eastern areas adjoining neighboring countries.  This all indicates that the present Government is keen to give more effect to its ideology of “Manuvaad” and “Hidutva.” It seems to be a step towards “Hindu Rashtra”, whereby they can easily perpetuate Manusmiriti laws to keep SC/ST/OBC and minorities at the lowest rung (as second rate citizens). It is stunning to note that since last 70 years no effort has been made by either governments to done away with the caste system which is a teething problem of this country, whether it would be Hindu or Muslim. No one addresses as to how and why 2.5% to 3% Manuvaadi/Casteist and capitalist forces are at the helm of affairs, almost everywhere whether it will be judiciary, police, army or legislature.

Thus the CAA-NRIC and now NPR are related and must be seen in a wider context. If NPR data is misused to prepare NRIC, then the apprehensions of Assam NRIC will exemplify at national level. It will only result in chaos, confusion and harassment. Through it, the Government has only misled the people from the real issues such as unemployment, inflation, economic slowdown etc., the very issues for which it was elected to overcome. This government has indeed failed to achieve most of the aspirations of a welfare state. Besides the apprehensions many more hardships will follow if the Government will not give up its uncompromising stand to take back its decision on CAA-NRIC.  For instance, many states have already decided not to implement the NPR-NRIC, and further more, there are many states which are already on collision path with the centre and this will deteriorate inter-state relations.

Conclusion :

Thus India is finding itself in a dangerous situation. This whole issue of CAA and NRIC and now NPR creates the feeling of alienation in SC/ST/OBC, landless people (who are approximately 25-30 crores), people who live on roadsides, railway stations, nomads in crores, those who do not have houses of their own and especially those who are illiterate and most poverty stricken people and of course minorities  communities who are easy target for this Government, thereby destroying the secular fabric, unity in diversity of the nation ,which adds to the unique goodwill something which we Indians enjoy at the international forum. Therefore it is urged that people of India should continue to insist within the Constitutional framework and principles that Government should rollback on its decision on CAA-NRIC and repeal them at the earliest.  

* Writer is M.W.Ansari, IPS  (Retd., D.G.) (C.G. Government) and views are personal from TNIS

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