Two years of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) Draft

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    In Context 

    • The updation process of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam is caught in a logjam two years after the publication of the supplementary list on August 31, 2019.

    Major Points 

    • The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had collected the biometric details of 27.43 lakh people who had been delisted from the initial complete draft published in 2018. Some 8.37 lakh of them made it to the NRC complete draft published eight months later.
    • More than 19 lakh out of 3.3 crore applicants were left out of the complete draft of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on August 31, 2019.
      • But the stagnation of the updating exercise has cast a cloud of uncertainty over 8.37 lakh more people across the State. 
        • They  are struggling to get Aadhaar, and worry about benefits linked to it. 
        • This is because the biometric details of people collected before the publication of the draft continue to be frozen.
        • Background : 
          • The collection of biometrics followed a Supreme Court-approved standard operating procedure (SOP) in November 2018. 
          • Fingerprints, retina scans and other details were collected during the hearing of claims for the excluded people to be included in the NRC and objections to the inclusion of people who may have figured in the citizens’ list erroneously or through alleged manipulation.

    Why has the NRC of Assam not come into force even after two years?

    • Notification delayed :
      • The Registrar General of India (RGI) has not yet issued a notification on the NRC, which questions the legality of the list. 
    • Unheard case: 
      • The Supreme Court, which supervised the exercise from 2013, has not heard cases related to NRC since January 2020
    • Re-verification demand :
      • There has been a demand for the re-verification of the entire list. A hundred per cent review was demanded in several districts .
    •  Financial irregularities:
      • Notably, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has also reported financial irregularities of more than Rs 100 crore, adding to the dispute after the list was published.
    • Formal delays :
      • In February 2020, NRC State Coordinator wrote to the Assam government advising the unlocking of the biometric details of the 8.37 lakh people who made it back to the list.
      • Officials at the UIDAI’s regional office in Guwahati said the Aadhaar numbers of people with the “NRC cloud” could not be issued until clarification from the RGI reached the authority via the Department.
      • Without the RGI’s notification, the NRC authority cannot issue rejection slips to the 19.06 lakh people excluded from the register.
        • Such a slip outlines the reasons for a person being left out of the list.
        • According to the SOP, each excluded person was to have been issued a rejection slip for appealing to a Foreigner’s Tribunal within 120 days of receiving the slip. 
        • The tribunals would then hear their cases for inclusion in the register or exclusion for good.
          • But till date, those excluded have not been issued rejection slips by the NRC office, which would enable them to file appeals. 
        • These NRC cases are stretching out and since last year no hearings have taken place; so its implementation is still uncertain.
    • Impacts
      • The NRC process should have been taken to its logical conclusion or continued within the schedule. 
        • The suspension of the exercise has denied documents such as Aadhaar cards to many while thousands are being deprived of ration cards and other government benefits.
        • Increasing trauma: The trauma for the excluded people is increasing with the time taken for the exercise to resume.

     What is the National Register of Citizens (NRC)?

    • National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register prepared after the conduct of the Census of 1951 in respect of each village, showing the houses or holdings in serial order and indicating against each house or holding the number and names of persons staying therein. 
    • These registers covered each and every person enumerated during the Census of 1951 and were kept in the offices of Deputy Commissioners and Sub Divisional Officers according to instructions issued by the Government of India in 1951. Later these registers were transferred to the Police in the early 1960s.
    • This NRC was prepared under a directive from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
    • At present, only Assam has such a register and the exercise may be extended to other states as well. Nagaland is already creating a similar database known as the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants.

    NRC in Assam 

    • 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 reason behind the move was to identify Indian citizens in Assam amid “unabated” migration from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). 
    • The Centre has been pushing for NRCs in every state. Nagaland has already started an exercise to create a similar database of citizens known as the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants.

    What is the National Register of Citizens (NRC) update?

    • National Register of Citizens (NRC) updation basically means the process of enlisting the names of all citizens residing in Assam at the time of NRC updation.

    How will the  NRC be updated?

    • The NRC will be updated as per the provisions of The Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. 

    Eligibility for inclusion in updated NRC

    • Persons whose names appear in NRC, 1951.
    • Persons whose names appear in the Electoral Rolls up to 24th March (midnight), 1971.
    • Descendants of the above persons.
    • Persons who came to Assam from Bangladesh between 1st January 1966 and 25th March 1971 and registered themselves with the Foreigner Regional Registration Office   (FRRO) and were declared by the Foreigner Tribunal as Indian citizens.
    •  All Indian Citizens including their children and descendants who have moved to Assam post 24th March 1971 would be eligible for inclusion in the updated NRC on adducing satisfactory proof of residence in any part of the country (outside Assam) as of 24th March 1971.
    • Persons who can provide any of the admissible documents issued up to 24th March midnight, 1971. 

     Objectives and need  

    •  It effectively suggests bringing legislation that will enable the government to identify infiltrators who have been living in India illegally, detain them and finally deport them where they came from.
    •  It will target illegal immigrants in India
      • But Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh won’t be affected, if they claim they have arrived in India after fleeing religious persecution. 
    • It essentially means, if a nationwide NRC is implemented as proposed, any illegal immigrant from other than Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, will be affected. And as for those three nations, people coming from there who belong to the Muslim community will also be affected as they are not included in the Citizenship Amendment Act.

    Is there any link between the  CAA and NRC

    • There is no direct link between the CAA and NRC. The Citizenship Amendment Act is meant to help members of the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have migrated from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan until December 31, 2014, facing religious persecution, ensuring that they will not be treated as illegal immigrants and given Indian citizenship. 
    • The Act got the President of India’s approval in December 2019 after it was passed by both Houses of Parliament. 
    • The rules of this Act are yet to be framed and the Centre has sought the extension of the deadline until 2022 in the Supreme Court. 
    • The NRC on the other hand is a process of valid Indian identification.

    Way Forward 

    • The state needs to take urgent steps to move the NRC process forward as soon as possible and to ensure that guarantees of due processes are in place.

    Source:TH