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National Register of Citizens (NRC)

Topics covered:

Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.


National Register of Citizens (NRC)


What to study?

For Prelims: Particulars of NRC.

For Mains: Update of NRC- issues associated including ethical concerns.


Context: Assam-based NGO says, National Register of Citizens (NRC) cannot protect the indigenous people of the State if 1971 remains the base year for identifying foreigners.


What’s the issue?

Cut-off date for detecting and deporting foreigners- March 24, 1971– was agreed upon while signing the Assam Accord in August 1985 to end a six-year violent agitation against foreigners in the State.

However, it is now being demanded to declare 1951 as the cut-off year for determining citizenship as in other parts of India.


Need for changing the cut- off year:

It is because the base year of 1971 will not protect the rights of indigenous people because many migrants from erstwhile East Pakistan and later Bangladesh entered Assam from 1951 onward.


What is NRC?

The NRC is the list of Indian citizens and was prepared in 1951, following the census of 1951.

The process of NRC update was taken up in Assam as per a Supreme Court order in 2013.

In order to wean out cases of illegal migration from Bangladesh and other adjoining areas, NRC updation was carried out under The Citizenship Act, 1955, and according to rules framed in the Assam Accord.

The Assam government released the final draft of NRC on July 30, 2018. The list incorporates names of 2.89 crore people out of 3.29 crore applicants. The names of 40.07 lakh people have been left out.


Why is it being carried out?

Crisis of identity: Influx of immigrants has created a crisis of identity among the indigenous. Locals fear that their cultural survival will be affected, political control weakened and employment opportunities undermined because of immigrants.

Environmental degradation: Large areas of forest land were encroached upon by the immigrants for settlement and cultivation. The state experienced declining percent of land area under forest from 39% in 1951-52 to about 30% now.

Increase financial burden: Immigration has increased pressure on the part of state government, as the government has to increase the expenditure on education and health facilities to the immigrants.

Assam agitation:   

The  failure  of  government  to  respond  the  issue  of  illegal  migration  led  to  the  agitation  by  the  Assamese  under  the  leadership  of  All  Assam  Gana  Sangram  Parishad  (AAGSP)  and  All  Assam   Student’s   Union   (AASU). Assam   witnessed   governmental   instability, sustained civil disobedience campaigns and worst cases of ethnic violence. Assam accord was the result of this agitation.

Illegal voters: Most of the Bangladeshi immigrants have got their names enlisted in the voting list illegally, thereby claiming themselves as citizens of the state. The immigrant’s population act as a vote bank for the political parties in Assam.


Why is this worrisome?

  1. The official presumption that people residing in Assam areas are foreigners has reduced several million of these highly impoverished, mostly rural, powerless and poorly lettered residents to a situation of helplessness and extreme poverty, destitution, hardship.
  2. It has also caused them abiding anxiety and uncertainty about their futures. They are required to convince a variety of usually hostile officials that they are citizens, based on vintage documents which even urban, educated, middle-class citizens would find hard to muster.
  3. Women are especially in danger of exclusion from the citizenship register. Typically, they have no birth certificates, are not sent to school, and are married before they become adults.


UN experts recently warned that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam could render millions of citizens stateless and create instability in India.


Way ahead:

A person’s citizenship is a basic human right. Declaring people foreigners in haste without judicially verifying their credentials can leave many human beings stateless.

The need of the hour is that Union Government should clearly chart out the course of action regarding the fate of excluded people from final NRC data and political parties should refrain from colouring the entire NRC process through electoral prospects that may snowball in to communal violence.

There is a need for a robust mechanism of legal support for the four million who have to prove their citizenship to India with their limited means.


Measures to boost border security:

  1. The Central Government should appoint a National Immigration Commissionto  frame  a  National  Migration  Policy  and  a  National  Refugee  Policy.  The  Commission  should  examine  ways  of  strengthening  the  Foreigners  Act  1946,  as  well  as  feasibility of Identity Cards for both citizens and non-citizens and Work Permits for migrants.
  2. Border fencing in Assam must be completed forthwith on a war footing. The existing Border Security Force posts and the BSF water wing should be strengthened.
  3. Our nationals  in  the  border  districts  and  for  that  matter  in  the  whole State should be provided multipurpose photo identity card.
  4. The ongoing NRC updating should be completed without delay and proper arrangement for the deportation of illegal migrants should be done.
  5. The Illegal Migrants Determination by Tribunal (IMDT) Act of 1983should be repealed.

Sources: the Hindu.