Wanted: A unique identity card
The Modi-II government is unique in many ways; many of its movements have no precedent in India. He embarked on a wave of multiple enumerations of the country’s residents and issuing them with identity cards. The first was the NRC for Assam which, while comprehensive, was not without blame. The second is the count under the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, under which the government began granting citizenship to migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who entered India after to have been “religiously persecuted” until December 31, 2014.
The Minister of the Interior, Amit Shah who introduced it in both chambers, did not explain why and how these three countries were chosen and why the migrants arrived more than five years ago. He also did not know why, in violation of Articles V to XI, religion had become a criterion for being an Indian citizen and why migrants of other races, for example Muslims, were excluded. At least two states – West Bengal and Kerala – have refused to enforce the law because they say it flouts the Constitution and is unfair to Muslims.
Protest rallies of ordinary people and students are organized in many parts of the country; buses and trains were set on fire, demanding the law be withdrawn. Applications have been filed with the courts. If the court allows it, the process will begin, as the law went into effect on January 10. Presumably, some sort of citizenship smart card will be issued to those eligible, who will own and have to produce, in addition to a plethora of ration cards, voting, Aadhaar, PAN, ATMs, entry cards. in the hospital, etc. , adding to the confusion that already exists with regard to identity cards.
As if that weren’t enough, the Modi-II government announced another National Population Registration (NPR) count ahead of the decennial census, scheduled for next year. This will be done in accordance with the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship Rules (Registration of Citizens and Issuance of National Identity Cards) of 2003. Data for the NPR was last collected in 2010 with the list houses by the 2011 Indian Census and were updated in 2015 by door-to-door survey and has since been fully digitized.
The ensuing update is a prelude to the list of homes for the 2021 census which will be carried out from April to September 2020 across India. The NPR will enroll all people residing in India; it will also register citizens and non-citizens. The then Minister of State for Home Affairs said that “the NPR is the first step towards the establishment of the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC), or NRC. It is not understood why the decennial censuses being there, the NPR was undertaken from 1955.
If done right, will the 2021 census be necessary? If the censuses look for additional data, it could be included in the NPR data; in this way, the huge expense and the deployment of additional staff on the census could be avoided. The NPR website had a notice that it was a mandatory prelude to NRC; it was withdrawn possibly due to massive agitation against the NRC. The NRC was mandated by the Citizenship Act of 1955, as amended in 2003; under the direction of the Supreme Court. It was only carried out for Assam in 2013 and 2014.
Although it has yet to be discussed in cabinet, Mr Shah is determined to complete it for the rest of India. He said in April 2019: “A government of the Bharatiya Janata Party will pick up the infiltrators one by one and throw them into the Bay of Bengal.” According to the 2003 citizenship rules, the government can order the preparation of the NRC, based on data collected during the NPR; local authorities will then decide whether the person’s name will be added to the NRC or not, i.e. decide on their citizenship status.
No new rule or law is needed to conduct this exercise across India. Assam, being a border state with enormous illegal immigration, an NRC for the state was established in 1951 based on census data for that year, but it was not maintained thereafter. The Illegal Migrants (Court Determination) Act 1983 was passed by Parliament, forming a separate tribunal to identify illegal migrants in Assam, but the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 2005, after which the Indian government agreed to update the Assam NRC. .
Following the unsatisfactory progress of the decade-long update, the Supreme Court began leading and overseeing the process in 2013. The latest NRC update for Assam, released on August 31, 2019, contained 31 million dollars. names out of 33 million, leaving out 1.9 million applicants. Contrary to BJP expectations, over 80 percent of those excluded are Bengali Hindus from Bangladesh, who, being a strong electoral base, can now become citizens under the CAA. The NDA-II government committed in its election manifesto (Sankalpa Patra, 2019) to implement the NRC for all states and UTs. Residents of a locality who have lived there for at least six months and plan to continue for six months or more are enlisted in the NPR.
According to the 2003 citizenship rules, the government can issue an order to prepare the NPR and create the NRC based on the data collected in the NPR. According to the 2003 citizenship rules, the local authorities would then decide whether the person’s name will be added to the NRC or not, thus deciding their citizenship status. No new rule or law is needed to conduct this exercise across India. Since 2014, the two NDA governments have announced to Parliament and outside that the NRIC, or NRC, will be based on data collected under the NPR which came into being in 2010 with the names of 119 crore of Indian residents. appearing therein; it is only recently that officers deny it, sensing mass protests.
This data was further updated in 2015 by linking to the biometric data of the Aadhaar database. The NPR, scheduled for 2020, will also include details such as parents’ place of birth, last place of residence, serial number for official documents. Under Section 3 (2) (c) of the Aliens Act 1946, the central government can expel foreigners who are illegally staying in India. To accommodate a large number of illegal aliens who could be declared as such by the final NRC and the Aliens Courts, the government is building several detention camps across the country.
One of the first such centers was established in Assam under Congress in 2008. In 2014, the Center called on all states to establish at least one detention center so as not to mix illegal immigrants. with the inmates. . On January 9, 2019, the Union government released a “Model Detention Manual 2019” which stipulated that every city or district with a significant immigration checkpoint must have a detention center. The Interior Ministry revealed to parliament that there were six operational detention centers in Assam as of November 28, 2019. Four more are operational in other states.
Delhi has three detention centers; the Delhi Police Special Branch oversees the area where Pakistanis are detained, while people of other nationalities are under the surveillance of the FRRO which, along with the Delhi Police, works under the Ministry of Interior. Detention centers have opened in Mapusa in Goa, Sondekoppa in Nelamangala (located 40 kms from Bangalore) and they are under construction in Nerul in Navi Mumbai, Goindwal Sahib in the Tarn Taran district in Punjab and in Alwar in Rajasthan.
Assam’s first detention center was established in 2008, when Congress was in power in the state, by order of the court. In 2011, the Congressional government built three more camps in the area. The Assam government is building ten more detention camps in addition to the six already in place. The first of these new exclusive detention camps is under construction in Goalpara district at a cost of around Rs 46 crore and a capacity of 3,000 people. The detention center will cover approximately 2.88 lakh square feet (about the size of seven football fields) and have 15 floors; it was to be ready in December 2019.
Can all identity data and other relevant data be encrypted on one card? Technology should definitely make it possible. There must be two of these cards – one for minors (up to 17 years old) and one for adults with integrated photo and microchip. Because faces change until adolescence, no photo is needed for young people; only permanent birthmarks (such as moles and black spots) should be given. Huge state funds were spent on the preparation and distribution of rations, EPIC cards (voters) Aadhaar and NRC (in Assam).
On December 24, 2019, the Union Cabinet approved 3,941 crore (US $ 550 million) for updating the National Population Register (NPR). NRC cards are redundant except to identify migrants across the border; the census can do that job. It is not known how many of the more than 1.9 million illegal migrants who were excluded from the final NRC for Assam were deported or housed in detention centers within prisons. In 2018, some activists brought to the attention of the Supreme Court the condition of families held separately in six detention centers in Assam; some would have died.
The BJP government in Assam has not announced any policy regarding excluded immigrants. That India’s detention centers are not like the infamous “concentration camps” for Jews in Hitler’s Germany where many were shot or perished in gas chambers in what has become the “Holocaust”. . If all opposition parties lobby and cooperate with governments to merge all relevant data from other existing cards in the 2021 census, encrypt the data in a single card and replace existing ID cards for all residents from India, the snowballing confusion over too many counts and maps will end forever.
(Writer retired as Registrar of Newspapers for India)