NRC cost-benefit analysis

Paper: GS II

Topic: Amendment in Constitution, Important Aspects of Governance, Transparency and accountability.

For Prelims: NRC, Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019

For Mains: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and issues arising out of their Design and Implementation

In News:  In India, widespread protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that began in the Northeast are now raging across the country.

About Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019

  • This amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.
  • Under the Act, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalization is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, and for 11 of the previous 14 years.
  • The Bill relaxes this 11-year requirement to six years for persons belonging to the same six religions and three countries.
  • The Act also provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be cancelled if they violate any law.

Issues associated with the implementations of CAA and NRC process

The primary goals of the NRC are to create a register of citizens in order to identify illegal immigrants and deter future illegal immigration.

While these goals may seem practical from a national security standpoint, will they be achieved? And if so, at what cost?

  • Massive protests: With the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) coupled with the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens(NRC), massive protests have erupted across India.
  • Monetary cost- at least two-thirds of the annual education budget:
    • The estimated monetary cost of the recently concluded NRC in Assam a state with approximately 1/40th the population of India was approximately Rs 1,600 crore.
    • Scaling such a venture to a nationwide level could result in a monetary cost of Rs 64,000 crore (40 times that of the cost in Assam) or even more, depending on how thoroughly the government wishes to complete the task.
    • To put this number in perspective, India’s annual education budget was Rs 96,000 crore in 2019.
    • Thus, the monetary cost of the NRC would be at least two-thirds of the annual education budget.
  • The non-monetary costs:
    • The non-monetary costs would include the time cost for citizens in gathering the documents and complying with the NRC, bribes demanded by bureaucrats (particularly from the poor), and the enormous burden of litigation on the judiciary.
    • Individuals deemed illegal can take legal recourse, but the vast number of cases going through several layers of the judiciary will take years to resolve.
    • The most significant cost will be the hardship and suffering caused to genuine Indian citizens without adequate documentary proof of their citizenship.
    • In a research found that Bangladeshi illegal immigrants have been successfully obtaining citizenship papers. Unlike their illegal Bangladeshi counterparts, poor citizens of India will disproportionately be the victims of the NRC process as they have never considered the need for citizenship documents in the past.
    • Loss of assets to the economy of the country: It is unclear if someone deemed illegal will be deported. After all, where can you deport a stateless individual? It is more likely that they will be held in detention centres indefinitely and, ironically, be dependent on the state instead of working and contributing to the economy.

Is illegal migration from Bangladesh a major problem for India?

Whatever be the number of illegal migrants already in the country, the number of Bangladeshis sneaking into India illegally over the last couple of decades and in the future will be negligible for myriad reasons:

  • Estimates of illegal migration are hard to come by, but wild guesses range from 2 to 20 million.
  • There is, however, an unambiguous downward trend in the number of Bangladesh-born people living in India, declining from 3.7 million in 2001 to 2.7 million in 2011, based on census data.
  • The key motivation for an economic migrant is the difference in the living standards between the home and the host country.
    • According to the recent World Bank data, Bangladesh does better than India on several quality of life indicators:
      • Life expectancy (Bangladesh 72, India 69).
      • Infant mortality (Bangladesh 25, India 30).
      • Incidence of poverty measured by $3.20 a day (Bangladesh 53 %, India 60%).
      • Inequality measured by the Gini index (Bangladesh 32.4, India 35.7).
      • It is true that the per capita GDP in Bangladesh at $1,698 is slightly lower than $2,010 in India, but the GDP gap is narrowing, as Bangladesh’s economy grows faster.
      • Overall, many quality of life indicators in Bangladesh has overtaken India, removing much of the economic incentive for migration.
      • The fertility rate in Bangladesh has declined from 3.17 in 2000 to 2.1 (compared to 2.2 in India) in 2016.
      • Research by Gordon Hanson and Craig McIntosh finds that as the fertility rate in the Latin American countries declined, emigration to the US declined as well.
      • Given the significant decline in fertility in Bangladesh, the demographic pressure for emigration to India has weakened significantly.
    • Do migrants from Bangladesh cause an economic drain on the Indian economy?
      • There is ample empirical evidence that immigrants tend to be younger and more likely to work and contribute to the GDP of the host country.
      • Similarly, the claim that immigrants commit more crimes has no empirical support.
      • In fact, research by Alex Nowrasteh based on data from Texas in the US found that illegal and legal immigrants both have lower incarceration and criminal conviction rates than native-born Americans. There is no reason to believe that Bangladeshi migrants are any different in this respect.
      • In sum, the economic and demographic factors pushing Bangladeshis to migrate to India have reversed.

Way Forward

  • Identifying illegal migrants through the NRC process will be cumbersome, costs far outweigh benefits.
  • The most significant cost will be the hardship and suffering caused to genuine Indian citizens without adequate documentary proof of their citizenship.
  • If the Indian leadership still wants to deter illegal immigration from Bangladesh, they should devote more resources towards securing the border instead of spending a colossal amount of money on the NRC.
  • While the NRC in Assam was politically necessitated and mandated by the Supreme Court, there is no such compulsion for a nationwide NRC. Given the enormous costs of the NRC and meager benefits, the only rationale for conducting it would be the political dividends.

Mains Question

The recent announcement of NRC and the cost involved associated with it and is illegal migration from Bangladesh a major problem for India? Critically evaluate.

Approach:

Question Demand: Question demands to write about the cumbersome process of NRC and issues with Bangladeshi migrants.

Introduction: The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) that seeks to amend certain provisions of the 1955 Act. Mention about CAA, its need and impact.

Body:

  • As the recent NRC in Assam which itself sets the example of threat and restlessness, can this be applicable to the whole of India.
  • Discuss the role migrant to the economy, is Bangladeshi migrant threat, where Bangladesh its self-improving their economy
  • The real challenge for India will begin after the process of identifying immigrants is done.

Conclusion:

The CAA is peppered with unconstitutionality. Suggest the steps that need to be adopted in real sense to bring India together as CAA can be catastrophic for the social fabric and future of India.

What needs to be done on priority basis with respect to the security is the most important question.


The way ahead in Manipur

Paper: GS II

Topic: Amendment in Constitution, Important Aspects of Governance, Transparency and accountability.

For Prelims: NAGA Accord, Article 371 A, Regional Territorial Council (TC).

For Mains: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and issues arising out of their Design and Implementation

In News: While much of India is roiled in protests over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), something else took centre-stage in Manipur. On December 20, 2019, the Manipur Assembly passed a resolution opposing, inter alia, “any kind of autonomy to any part of State, as a result of Framework Agreement leading to the resolution of Naga political issue”.

About Naga Peace Talks

  • The Naga peace talks refer to talks undertaken between the Indian government and the various stakeholders in Nagaland to resolve decades-old disputes.
  • Some of these issues date back to the colonial era. According to reports, the demand for a Greater Nagaland or Nagalim covering Nagaland parts of Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar.
  • While the area of Nagaland is around 16,500 km2, Greater Nagalim sprawls over

1, 20,000 km2.

  • The demand for Nagalim has always agitated Assam, Manipur and Arunachal.
  • Peace talks with Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) NSCN (I-M), the then most lethal insurgent group started in 1997.
  • It’s a demand being made for decades and was first crystallized via the formation of a Naga Club in 1918.
  • The Naga Club had reportedly told the Simon Commission that the Nagas should be left alone “to determine for ourselves as in ancient times”.
  • On August 14, 1947, the Naga National Council (NNC) led by Angami Zapu Phizo declared Nagaland an independent state.
  • Phizo also formed an underground Naga Federal Government (NFG) and a Naga Federal Army (NFA) in 1952, which the Indian government sought to crush by sending in the Army in Nagaland and enacting the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act, or AFSPA.
  • The resulting insurgency has, over the course of decades, resulted in the killing of thousands of people, including civilians.

Nagaland Peace Accord

  • It is the accord signed-in on 3 August 2015 by the Government of Indiaand the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) to end the insurgency.
  • The framework agreement of 2015 was signed after the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak Muivah), or NSCN-IM, gave up the idea of Naga sovereignty and “agreed for a settlement within the Indian federation”.
  • Subsequently, the NSCN-IM also came to accept that the “boundaries of any state will neither be changed nor altered”.
  • The NSCN-IM is the body representing the Nagas in the talks. On its part, the Indian government reaffirmed its recognition of the uniqueness of Naga history.
  • A special status on the lines of Article 371-A will be explored for Naga areas outside Nagaland.

Recent Developments in Naga Peace Accord

It is important to remember that the two foundational and explicit aims of the Naga movement from Phizo to Muivah were sovereign statehood and territorial integration.

Sovereignty was claimed on the basis of prior sovereign existence and difference, which is today expressed in terms of “uniqueness”. Second, the “artificial boundaries” separating the Nagas will be dismantled and be placed under one administration.

  • On August 5, the Narendra Modigovernment abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution. This provoked anxiety in Nagaland and other northeastern states, most of which are endowed with different levels of special status under different sections of Article 371.
  • It also emerged that the demands for a separate Naga flag and constitution the very same things that were taken from Jammu and Kashmir were what had stalled the talks.
  • The response from the NSCN-IM came through a series of aggressive statements:
    • The group stated that “the Nagas will not merge with the Union of India”; that they “do not accept Indian Constitution, but Nagas and Indians will share sovereign powers based on competencies”.
    • This follows the group’s statement on that an “honourable” accord demands acceptance of the Naga national flag and constitution and that “talks sans integration of all the contiguous Naga areas will be a futile exercise”.

Demarcating “Naga areas” from the rest will itself be a challenge

On December 20, 2019, the Manipur Assembly passed a resolution opposing, inter alia, “any kind of autonomy to any part of State, as a result of Framework Agreement leading to the resolution of Naga political issue”

  • The creation of a regional Territorial Council (TC) for the Nagas of Manipur: Interestingly, rallies in Naga-dominated districts three days earlier had seen speakers predicting the creation of a regional Territorial Council (TC) for the Nagas of Manipur as part of the Indo-Naga accord.

(Territorial Council is a term used when the territorial limits of councils under Sixth Schedule extend beyond one district).

  • Anxiety over Manipur’s integrity:
    • Anxiety over Manipur’s integrity has dominated politics in the Meitei-dominated plain areas for the last 20 years.
    • As it becomes clear that the government is considering granting local autonomy in the form of the TC to the Nagas of Manipur in lieu of integration, the cry for protecting Manipur’s “territorial integrity” subtly transforms into preserving “the present administrative set up” of the state.
    • Be that as it may, the idea of a Naga TC in Manipur needs close attention.
  • There are overlapping claims on territories:
    • Manipur has been inhabited by three broad ethnic groups.
    • The Naga and Zomi-Kuki tribes in the north and south have long claimed that they have never been part of Manipur historically and have demanded separation from it.
    • The task of defending Manipur’s territorial integrity, therefore, falls on the majority Meitei community who occupy the middle plains. They have so far succeeded in preserving the status quo.
    • The Naga and Zomi-Kuki tribes’ demand for separation from Manipur is aligned with their aspiration for political integration with their cognate tribe-groups in the surrounding states and countries.
  • Aspiration by the ‘Zo’ tribes:
    • The Nagas’ struggle for territorial integration is well known. Less known was a similar aspiration by the Zo tribes to politically reunite their lands in present-day Mizoram, the southern districts of Manipur, and the Chin Hills of Burma.
    • In fact, political reunification with their kindred tribes outside Mizoram was one major aim of the Mizo National Front (MNF) insurgency.
    • The Indo-Mizo Accord of 1986 acknowledged this demand but didn’t accede to it. It took another 30 years for the Nagas to arrive at this point.
  • The major divide in Manipur:
    • Administratively, the major divide in Manipur is between the plain areas and the hill areas.
    • The entire “Hill Areas”, covering both Naga and Zomi-Kuki tribes, always had a uniform structure of administration. In terms of local autonomy, there are the Autonomous DistrictCouncils (ADCs) set up by an Act of Parliament in 1971.
    • There are six ADCs covering the hill areas of Manipur.
    • ADCs in Manipur are not under the Sixth Schedule: Unlike the ADCs elsewhere, the ADCs in Manipur are not under the Sixth Schedule. Demands were made at various times for placing the Manipur ADCs under the Sixth Schedule, which will augment their powers. Yet, they remain unmet.
  • Article 371 A overriding power:
    • According to reports, the proposed Manipur Naga TC will be bolstered with provisions akin to Article 371A of the Constitution.
    • Article 371A gives the Nagaland Assembly overriding powers over the Indian Parliament in respect of the Nagas’ customary laws, religious and social practices, and land and its resources.

If the Naga TC is created -Administrative structure is rearranged on ethnic lines, issues associated:

  • If the Naga TC is created, it will be the first time in Manipur’s history that the state’s administrative structure is rearranged on ethnic lines.
  • Demarcating “Naga areas” from the rest will itself be a challenge because there are overlapping claims on territories.
  • Manipur will take the form of three ethnic conclaves cohabiting out of necessity.
  • If this happens, then the existing ADCs will become redundant. Then, what will become of the rest of the Manipur hills?
  • As it is, the Zomi-Kuki tribes, who make up the rest of the hill areas, are also hoping for a TC on the lines of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) in Assam.
  • As was the norm in India’s Northeast, two militant groupings -United Peoples Front (UPF) and Kuki National Organisation (KNO) as representatives of these tribes, are in talks with the Indian government.
  • The UPF, in their detailed proposals recently submitted to the interlocutor, has laid claim to an area almost half of Manipur for their proposed Zomi/Kuki TC.
  • Reports of progress in the Indo-Naga talks and the idea of a Naga TC have kept people on tenterhooks.
  • Recent days have seen mass rallies being taken out, asking the government to expedite the talks process with the UPF/KNO.
  • It is likely that the creation of a Naga TC will unleash dynamics that will make a parallel Zo/Kuki TC inevitable.
  • Yet, the fight over claimed lands will likely consume the region, which will offset the gains from the Naga accord.It could derail the Act East Policy too.

Way Forward

  • One option is for the parties to agree to demarcating the boundary by a neutral body.
  • Else, it may come down to upgrading the existing ADCs together and simultaneously to a higher status under the Sixth Schedule. Or, converting existing ADCs into a single TC covering the entire hill area.
  • This will keep the boundaries ethnic-neutral and preclude fights over claimed ancestral homelands.
  • It will assuage the Meitei’s fears on this score. Manipur will remain intact.
  • This will, of course, be too little for some and too much for others. But under the circumstances, it may be the safest way forward.

Conclusion

  • Rival territorial claims by ethnic groups can derail potential gains of Naga Accord.
  • It remains to be seen how a special provision that empowers one state vis-à-vis the Union can be adapted to apply to a particular area within another state.

Additional Information

Autonomous administrative divisions of India

Autonomous District Councils in North East India

  • The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of Indiaallows for the formation of Autonomous District Councils to administer areas which have been given autonomy within their respective states.
  • Presently, 10 Autonomous district Councils under Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura are under Sixth Schedule.