National Register of Citizens

APR 21

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National Register of Citizens

WHY IN NEWS:

  • The Nagaland government decided to set up a joint consultative committee for preparation of Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN), the state’s own version of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

WHAT IS THE NATIONAL REGISTER OF CITIZENS (NRC)?

  • National Register of Citizens (NRC) is the register containing names of Indian citizens.
  • The first NRC list was made in 1951 across India according to the census of that year.
  • This is meant to decide who is a bona fide Indian citizen and those who fail to enlist in the register will be deemed illegal migrants
  • In 2019, for the first time, an exercise to update NRC was carried out, but only in Assam.
  • NRC updation in Assam was conducted as per the provisions of the Citizenship Rules, 2003 which was framed under the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • The task was undertaken by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner which functions within the Home Ministry

SIGNIFICANCE OF NRC PROCESS

  • Restricting illegal influx of immigrants
    • It was seen as the reason behind growing demographic change in NE region and increasing social tensions.
  • Resolving major economic grievance
    • by ensuring entitlement of state's resources to indigenous people.
  • Removal of uncertainty and fear:
    • Those enlisted in NRC now need not live in the fear of being deported and can live freely without stigma and suspicions.
  • Human rights protection
    • Better social cohesion and checking human trafficking across borders.
  • Better national security:
    • Documented NRC in bordering areas could also help curb drugs/arms trafficking, radicalization, religious extremism, terrorism etc.
  • Putting to rest political opportunism and vote bank appeasement.

CHALLENGES:

  • Incorrect inclusion and exclusion issues:
    • 19 lakh people are left out of NRC.
  • Flawed source of data:
    • Inherent flaws in NRC of 1951 and electoral rolls from 1961 to 1971, which forms majority of legacy data. Most documents are in Bengali, which are not translated.
  • Difficulty in gathering proof of identity
    • Burden of proof rests with the NRC applicant. People have to prove that they are descendants of Indian citizens by providing documents dating back to 1951 or 1971, which is an onerous condition in a country which has poor data collection record.
  • Criticism on humanitarian grounds:
    • Since the people have been in India for so long, and have built their lives and become part of local economies and communities, it is inhuman to uproot them.
  • Lack of clarity on citizenship status:
    • No clarity on the citizenship of children and grandchildren of illegal migrants.
    • While Citizenship Act of 1955 recognizes citizenship by birth, NRC doesn't recognize it.
  • Lack of clarity on post identification course of action:
    • Bangladesh doesn't recognize them as their nationals, thus, illegal immigrants cannot be deported.
    • Option of sending them to detention camps, until their deportation, is being criticized after the reports of inhumane conditions at such camps.
    • Non recognition may create fear of creating a group of stateless people (like the Rohingyas)
    • Rehabilitation and livelihood alternatives have not been laid out, yet.
  • Promote barriers within nation
    • Fear of targeting and excluding religious minorities especially when seen in the context of CAA

WAY FORWARD:

  • Need for robust refugee policy:
    • India has no definite policy with respect to refugees and asylum seekers.
    • It needs to end uncertainty faced by finally excluded individuals and provide them with basic rights on humanitarian grounds
  • International cooperation:
    • Diplomatic deliberation and bilateral agreement with Bangladesh over repatriation of illegal immigrants.
    • India should also engage with other regional countries to develop a SAARC convention or a regional declaration on refugees.
    • Seek assistance from international organisations such as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organization for Migration (IOM) etc to address the issue of illegal migration.
  • Improving border management:
    • Comprehensive management of the borders including fencing, total surveillance 24x7, use of new imaging technology etc.
    • Facilitate better documented movement of people across border through easy work permits.

PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q. Discuss the significance of updating National Register of Citizens to combat illegal immigration into India?