Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam: Paper - III (General Studies – II) - 31st July 2018


Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam


UPSC Syllabus:

  • Paper-III: General Studies -II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)

Q. Explain the Assam's National Register of Citizens (NRC). Discuss the concerns which are surrounding it. (250 words)

Model Answer:

Approach:

  • Why in news?
  • Assam's NRC
  • Concerns that surrounds it
  • Conclusion

Why in news?

Recently the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has been published in Assam on July 30th, 2018.

Assam's NRC

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is the list of Indian citizens of Assam. Assam is the only State that had prepared an NRC in 1951 and it has also now become the first State to get the first draft of its own updated NRC. As per the Assam accord signed in 1985, it was agreed that all foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 would be given full citizenship and those who entered after 1971 would be deported.

The Register is meant to establish the credentials of a bona fide citizen as distinguished from a foreigner. This is to detect Bangladeshi migrants who may have illegally entered Assam after the midnight of March 24, 1971. The National Register of Citizens, Assam will contain the names of genuine Indian citizens and will help the government to check illegal immigration in India.

Background

The NRC Assam, the Register containing names of Indian Citizens in Assam, was prepared in 1951 as a non-statutory process by recording particulars of all the persons enumerated during 1951 Census. The Assam agitation (1979-85) against the illegal foreigners led to the signing of Assam Accord on 15th August 1985 between the Central Government, State Government, All India Students' Union (AASU) and All Assam GanSangramParishad (AAGSP), which stipulated 24th March, 1971 as the cut-off date for identification and deportation of illegal migrants from East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Accordingly, the Citizenship Act, 1955 was amended by inserting section 6A as special provisions for Assam.

In a tripartite meeting of the Central Government, State Government and AASU chaired by the Hon'ble Prime Minister in May, 2005, it was agreed to update NRC, 1951. The modalities were approved by the Government of India in consultation with the Government of Assam.

In pursuance of the Supreme Court's direction, the exercise of NRC update in Assam commenced in December 2013 to be completed over a period of three years. The Supreme Court is continuously monitoring the progress of NRC update and has given various directions from time to time.

Concerns that surrounds it

  • Only those applicants who had submitted their applications in 2015 will be considered. Out of the 40.07 lakh applicants who have been left out of the final draft NRC released, 2.48 lakh applicants have been kept on hold including the D-Voters (doubtful voters who have been disenfranchised on account of failure to prove citizenship), descendants of D-voters and persons whose cases are pending before the foreigners tribunal. This has increased people’s anxieties.
  • Post marriage migration- Nearly 29 lakh women, who have migrated after marriage, have claimed for residency status. Their claim is supported by certificates issued by gram panchayat secretaries and executive magistrates. The Supreme Court has clarified that while these documents could be allowed, it could by no means taken as proof of citizenship. The challenge lies in verifying the authenticity of the certificates for establishing the link between the claimant and the legacy person (who has to be a citizen).
  • The process will be protracted, with claims and contestations even after the final draft.
  • There is apprehension among a large number of people about the possibility of being deported from the country if they fail to get their papers verified from the government.
  • There are important humanitarian concerns at play, concerns that go beyond identification and numbers.
  • In the absence of a deportation treaty with Bangladesh, the issue of border crossings into Assam is likely to continue in future.
  • The situation has been muddied with the Centre’s intent to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and make Hindu illegal migrants and those from certain other minority communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship. The Bill, with a cut-off date of December 31, 2014, undermines the process of the NRC, which is denominationally agnostic. The counting exercise has been accused, by many, of being skewed against Bengali Muslims, branded as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants because of their religious and linguistic identity. The state’s Muslim minorities have increasingly feared exclusion as the terms of the exercise seemed to change and new rules were introduced.
  • While attempting to deport the people identified as illegal migrants, there may erupt violent protests leading to law and order problem.

Conclusion

It is commendable that the state government has initiated a mammoth exercise to reach out to the public to explain how they are remedies available to people left out of the final draft inn order to keep people’s anxieties in check. The law and order machinery is active and has been keeping an eye out for hate messages on social media platforms. It is hoped that the exercise, once completed, will bring some closure to the vexed issue of foreigners in the State, one that had triggered the six-year-long Assam Agitation that ended in the mid-1980s but has continued to roil its politics. The government should seal the India-Bangladesh border and explore the possibility of provisions such as transparent work permits for foreigners, rather than push for this politically contentious legislation (Citizenship (Amendment) Bill).

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