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Human Rights

Assam goes up in flames with violent anti-CAB protests

GUWAHATI/NEW DELHI : Assam turned into a battleground on Wednesday with massive and violent protests across the state against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, but the government pushed the contentious legislation through Parliament overruling a vociferous Opposition that alleged it was against the idea of India as a secular nation.

As thousands of people including students hit the streets in Assam, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas shells and baton-charged the protesters leaving many of them injured, while curfew was imposed in Guwahati and a clampdown on internet services was announced across several districts of the state.

Similar protests rocked several other North-Eastern states, but the bill was passed by majority later in the evening in Rajya Sabha after a hours-long debate, two days after it was cleared in Lok Sabha. The bill now requires President’s signature to become a law.

Army deployment was announced in Tripura and Assam, where the influx of Bangladeshi immigrants has always been an emotive issue for natives of the state. The Centre also airlifted 5,000 paramilitary personnel to Northeastern states, including Assam, for maintenance of law and order duties.

Agitated students, protesting against the proposed law that seeks to grant Indian citizenship to all but Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, blocked road and rail traffic, pulled down barricades and even lobbed back the shells fired at them by the police.

A motorcycle rally was also organised against the bill, while discarded tyres, wooden logs and vehicles were set on fire as chaos prevailed on highways.

They also damaged a stage erected for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed summit meeting with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on Sunday, while pulling down hoardings and banners advertising the government’s welfare schemes and made a bonfire of those before the secretariat.

Though no single party or student body had officially called for a shutdown, the protesters fought pitched battles with security forces in the restive state, including in front of the secretariat, the seat of the state’s BJP government, plunging the state into chaos of a magnitude unseen since the violent 6-year movement by students that ended with the signing of the Assam accord in 1985.

Anti-CAB protests were also held in the national capital at Jantar Mantar and in several other parts of the country, even as the government strongly pushed for the bill in Rajya Sabha despite vociferous opposition by several parties who alleged the proposed law was a direct attack on the Indian Constitution and on the country’s secular character.

The RSS, meanwhile, readied plans to launch a nationwide campaign in favour of the proposed law, with a top functionary saying the bill would have a limited impact in Assam but will benefit more than 1.5 crore people across the country, including over 72 lakh in West Bengal itself.

The RSS and BJP leaders said the persecuted Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists who have been staying in India for a decade will benefit and asserted that that they are “natural citizens” of the country.

After getting the bill passed in Lok Sabha on Monday, Home Minister Amit Shah made a strong pitch for its passage in Rajya Sabha while rejecting a strong opposition by several parties and sought to return the criticism towards the Congress saying this legislation got necessitated because of partition at the time of independence.

Human Rights, Politics

What is CAB ? Isn’t it a injustice and deprivation to Assam

 

THE CITIZENSHIP (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019
A BILL
further to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.
BE it enacted by Parliament in the Seventieth Year of the Republic of India as
follows:—
1. (1) This Act may be called the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.
(2) It shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification
in the Official Gazette, appoint.
Short title and
commencement.
Bill No. 370 of 2019
AS INTRODUCED IN LOK SABHA
5
2
2. In the Citizenship Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as the principal Act), in section 2,
in sub-section (1), in clause (b), the following proviso shall be inserted, namely:—
“Provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or
Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into
India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014 and who has been exempted by the
Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the
Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the
Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder, shall not be treated as
illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act;”.
3. After section 6A of the principal Act, the following section shall be inserted,
namely:—
‘6B. (1) The Central Government or an authority specified by it in this behalf
may, subject to such conditions, restrictions and manner as may be prescribed, on an
application made in this behalf, grant a certificate of registration or certificate of
naturalisation to a person referred to in the proviso to clause (b) of sub-section (1) of
section 2.
(2) Subject to fulfilment of the conditions specified in section 5 or the
qualifications for naturalisation under the provisions of the Third Schedule, a
person granted the certificate of registration or certificate of naturalisation under
sub-section (1) shall be deemed to be a citizen of India from the date of his entry into
India.
(3) On and from the date of commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment)
Act, 2019, any proceeding pending against a person under this section in respect of
illegal migration or citizenship shall stand abated on conferment of citizenship to him:
Provided that such person shall not be disqualified for making application for
citizenship under this section on the ground that the proceeding is pending against
him and the Central Government or authority specified by it in this behalf shall not
reject his application on that ground if he is otherwise found qualified for grant of
citizenship under this section:
Provided further that the person who makes the application for citizenship
under this section shall not be deprived of his rights and privileges to which he was
entitled on the date of receipt of his application on the ground of making such
application.
(4) Nothing in this section shall apply to tribal area of Assam, Meghalaya,
Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the
area covered under “The Inner Line” notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier
Regulation, 1873.’.
4. In section 7D of the principal Act,—
(i) after clause (d), the following clause shall be inserted, namely:—
“(da) the Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder has violated any of the
provisions of this Act or provisions of any other law for time being in force as
may be specified by the Central Government in the notification published in the
Official Gazette; or”.
(ii) after clause (f), the following proviso shall be inserted, namely:—
“Provided that no order under this section shall be passed unless the
Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder has been given a reasonable opportunity
of being heard.”.
5. In section 18 of the principal Act, in sub-section (2), after clause (ee), the following
clause shall be inserted, namely:—
“(eei) the conditions, restrictions and manner for granting certificate of
registration or certificate of naturalisation under sub-section (1) of section 6B;”.
Amendment
of section 2.
Reg. 5 of 1873.
34 of 1920.
31 of 1946.
Insertion of
new section 6B.
Special
provisions as
to citizenship
of person
covered by
proviso to
clause (b) of
sub-section (1)
of section 2.
Amendment
of section 7D.
Amendment
of section 18.
57 of 1955.
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
50
3
6. In the Third Schedule to the principal Act, in clause (d), the following proviso shall
be inserted, namely:—
‘Provided that for the person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or
Christian community in Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, the aggregate period of
residence or service of Government in India as required under this clause shall be
read as “not less than five years” in place of “not less than eleven years”.’.

_______________________________________

What Home Ministry published about CAB

Ministry:
Home Affairs
  • Introduced
    Lok Sabha
    Dec 09, 2019
  • Passed
    Lok Sabha
    Dec 09, 2019

The Citizenship Act, 1955 regulates who may acquire Indian citizenship and on what grounds.  A person may become an Indian citizen if they are born in India or have Indian parentage or have resided in the country for a period of time, etc.  However, illegal migrants are prohibited from acquiring Indian citizenship.  An illegal migrant is a foreigner who: (i) enters the country without valid travel documents, like a passport and visa, or (ii) enters with valid documents, but stays beyond the permitted time period.[1]

Illegal migrants may be imprisoned or deported under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.  The 1946 and the 1920 Acts empower the central government to regulate the entry, exit and residence of foreigners within India.  In 2015 and 2016, the central government issued two notifications exempting certain groups of illegal migrants from provisions of the 1946 and the 1920 Acts.[2]  These groups are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014.2  This implies that these groups of illegal migrants will not be deported or imprisoned for being in India without valid documents.

In 2016, a Bill was introduced to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.[3]  The Bill sought to make illegal migrants belonging to these six religions and three countries eligible for citizenship and made some changes in the provisions on registration of Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders.  It was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee, which submitted its report on January 7, 2019.[4]  The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019.[5]  However, it lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.  Subsequently, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is being introduced in Lok Sabha in December 2019.

The 2019 Bill seeks to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.  It exempts certain areas in the North-East from this provision.  The Bill also makes amendments to provisions related to OCI cardholders.  A foreigner may register as an OCI under the 1955 Act if they are of Indian origin (e.g., former citizen of India or their descendants) or the spouse of a person of Indian origin.  This will entitle them to benefits such as the right to travel to India, and to work and study in the country.  The Bill amends the Act to allow cancellation of OCI registration if the person has violated any law notified by the central government.

Table 1 below compares the provisions of the 2016 Bill (as passed by Lok Sabha) with that of the 2019 Bill.

Table 1: Comparison of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, as passed by Lok Sabha, with the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (as passed by Lok Sabha) Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019
  • Eligibility for citizenship for certain illegal migrants:  The Act prohibits illegal migrants from acquiring Indian citizenship. Illegal migrants are foreigners who enter India without a valid passport or travel document, or stay beyond the permitted time.
  • The Bill amended the Act to provide that Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan will not be treated as illegal migrants.  In order to get this benefit, they must have also been exempted from the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 by the central government.  The 1920 Act mandates foreigners to carry passport, while the1946 Act regulates the entry and departure of foreigners in India.
  • The Bill further stated from the date of its enactment, all legal proceedings pending against such an illegal migrant will be closed.
  • The Bill adds two additional provisions on citizenship to illegal migrants belonging to these religions from the three countries.
  • Consequences of acquiring citizenship:  The Bill says that on acquiring citizenship: (i) such persons shall be deemed to be citizens of India from the date of their entry into India, and (ii) all legal proceedings against them in respect of their illegal migration or citizenship will be closed.
  • Exception:  Further, the Bill adds that the provisions on citizenship for illegal migrants will not apply to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, or Tripura, as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution.  These tribal areas include Karbi Anglong (in Assam), Garo Hills (in Meghalaya), Chakma District (in Mizoram), and Tripura Tribal Areas District.  It will also not apply to the areas under the Inner Line” under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.  The Inner Line Permit regulates visit of Indians to Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland.
  • Citizenship by naturalisation:  The Act allows a person to apply for citizenship by naturalisation, if the person meets certain qualifications. One of the qualifications is that the person must have resided in India or been in central government service for the last 12 months and at least 11 years of the preceding 14 years.
  • The Bill created an exception for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, with regard to this qualification. For these groups of persons, the 11 years’ requirement will be reduced to six years.
  • The Bill further reduces the period of naturalisation for such group of persons from six years to five years.
  • Grounds for cancelling OCI registration:  The Act provides that the central government may cancel registration of OCIs on five grounds including registration through fraud, showing disaffection to the Constitution, engaging with the enemy during war, necessity in the interest of sovereignty of India, security of state or public interest, or if within five years of registration the OCI has been sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more. The Bill added one more ground for cancelling registration, that is, if the OCI has violated any law that is in force in the country.
  • When the Bill was passed in Lok Sabha, this was amended to limit the disqualification to violations of the Citizenship Act or of any other law so notified by the central government.  Also, the cardholder has to be given an opportunity to be heard.
  • Same as the 2016 Bill passed by Lok Sabha.

Sources: The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, as passed by Lok Sabha; The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019; PRS.

Issues to consider

Whether differentiating on grounds of religion is a violation of Article 14

The Bill provides that illegal migrants who fulfil four conditions will not be treated as illegal migrants under the Act.  The conditions are: (a) they are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis or Christians; (b) they are from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan; (c) they entered India on or before December 31, 2014; (d) they are not in  certain tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, or Tripura included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution, or  areas under the “Inner Line” permit, i.e., Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland.

Article 14 guarantees equality to all persons, including citizens and foreigners.  It only permits laws to differentiate between groups of people if the rationale for doing so serves a reasonable purpose.[6]  The question is whether this provision violates the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution as it provides differential treatment to illegal migrants on the basis of (a) their country of origin, (b) religion, (c) date of entry into India, and (d) place of residence in India.  We examine below whether these differentiating factors could serve a reasonable purpose.

First, the Bill classifies migrants based on their country of origin to include only Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.  The Statement of Objects and Reasons in the Bill (SoR) states that India has had historic migration of people with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and these countries have a state religion, which has resulted in religious persecution of minority groups.  While the SoR reasons that millions of citizens of undivided India were living in Pakistan and Bangladesh, no reason has been provided to explain the inclusion of Afghanistan.

Further, it is not clear why migrants from these countries are differentiated from migrants from other neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka (Buddhist state religion)[7] and Myanmar (primacy to Buddhism)[8].  Sri Lanka has had a history of persecution of a linguistic minority in the country, the Tamil Eelams.[9]  Similarly, India shares a border with Myanmar, which has had a history of persecution of a religious minority, the Rohingya Muslims.[10]  Over the years, there have been reports of both Tamil Eelams and Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution from their respective countries and seeking refuge in India.[11]  Given that the objective of the Bill is to provide citizenship to migrants escaping from religious persecution, it is not clear why illegal migrants belonging to religious minorities from these countries have been excluded from the Bill.

Second, with respect to classification based on religious persecution of certain minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, it may be argued that there are other religious minorities in these countries, who face religious persecution and may have illegally migrated to India.  For example, over the years, there have been reports of persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan (who are considered non-Muslims in that country)[12], and the murder of atheists in Bangladesh.[13]  It is unclear why illegal migrants from only six specified religious minorities have been included in the Bill.

Third, it is also unclear why there is a differential treatment of migrants based on their date of entry into India, i.e., whether they entered India before or after December 31, 2014.

Fourth, the Bill also excludes illegal migrants residing in areas covered by the Sixth Schedule, that is, notified tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.  The purpose behind the enactment of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution was to aid in the development of tribal areas through autonomous councils, while protecting the indigenous population in these areas from exploitation and preserving their distinct social customs.[14]  The Bill also excludes the Inner Line Permit areas.  Inner Line regulates the entry of persons, including Indian citizens, into Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.  Once an illegal migrant residing in these areas acquires citizenship, he would be subject to the same restrictions in these areas, as are applicable to other Indian citizens.  Therefore, it is unclear why the Bill excludes illegal migrants residing in these areas.

Wide discretion to government to cancel OCI registration

The 1955 Act provides that the central government may cancel the registration of OCIs on various grounds.  The Bill adds one more ground for cancelling registration, that is, if the OCI has violated any law notified by the central government.  It further states that orders for cancellation of OCI should not be passed till the cardholder is given an opportunity to be heard.

It may be argued that giving the central government the power to prescribe the list of laws whose violation result in cancellation of OCI registration, may amount to an excessive delegation of powers by the legislature.  The Supreme Court has held that while delegating powers to an executive authority, the legislature must prescribe a policy, standard, or rule for their guidance, which will set limits on the authority’s powers and not give them arbitrary discretion to decide how to frame the rules.[15]  The Bill does not provide any guidance on the nature of laws which the central government may notify.  Therefore, in the absence of standards, criteria or principles on the types of laws which may be notified by the government, it may be argued that the powers given to the executive may go beyond the permissible limits of valid delegation.

 

[1].  Section 2(1)(b) of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

[2].  G.S.R. 685 (E) and G.S.R. 686 (E), Gazette of India, September 7, 2015, http://egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2015/165755.pdf; G.S.R. 702(E) and G.S.R. 703(E), Gazette of India, July 18, 2016, http://egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2016/170822.pdf.

[3]. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, https://www.prsindia.org/sites/default/files/bill_files/Citizenship_%28A%29_bill%2C_2016_0.pdf.

[4]. Report of the Joint Committee on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Joint Parliamentary Committee, Lok Sabha, January 7, 2019, https://www.prsindia.org/sites/default/files/bill_files/Joint%20committee%20report%20on%20citizenship%20%28A%29%20bill.pdf..

[5]. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (As passed by Lok Sabha), https://www.prsindia.org/sites/default/files/bill_files/Citizenship%20%28A%29%20Bill%2C%202019%20as%20passed%20by%20LS.pdf.

[6].  State of West Bengal vs Anwar Ali Sarkar, AIR 1952 SC 75.

[7].  Article 9 of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka states: “The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Articles 10 and 14(1)(e).”

[8].  Articles 361 and 362 of the Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar state the following.  “361. The Union recognizes special position of Buddhism as the faith professed by the great majority of the citizens of the Union. 362. The Union also recognizes Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Animism as the religions existing in the Union at the day of the coming into operation of this Constitution.”

[9]. It is estimated that there are over a lakh Sri Lankan refugees in India, two-thirds of them in government camps.  See https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/why-lankan-refugees-are-reluctant-to-go-back-home/articleshow/65591130.cms

[10]. “Myanmar Rohingya: What you need to know about the crisis”, BBC News, April 24, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41566561.

[11]. “Why India is refusing refuge to Rohingyas”, Times of India, September 6, 2017, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/why-india-is-refusing-refuge-to-rohingyas/articleshow/60386974.cms.

[12].  The Second Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan passed in 1974 effectively declared Ahmaddiyas as non-Muslims.

[13].  For example, see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/11/bangladesh-murders-bloggers-foreigners-religion.

[14].  Report of the Sub-Committee on North East Frontier (Assam) Tribal and Excluded Areas (Chairperson: Gopinath Bardoloi), July 28, 1947; Constituent Assembly of India Debates, Volume IX, 5th, 6th and 7th September, 1949.

[15].  Hamdard Dawakhana and Anr., v. The Union of India (UOI) and Ors., AIR1960SC554; Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies and Ors. vs. The State of Bihar and Ors., 2016(4) PLJR369.

 

DISCLAIMER: This document is being furnished to you for your information.  You may choose to reproduce or redistribute this report for non-commercial purposes in part or in full to any other person with due acknowledgement of PRS Legislative Research (“PRS”).  The opinions expressed herein are entirely those of the author(s).  PRS makes every effort to use reliable and comprehensive information, but PRS does not represent that the contents of the report are accurate or complete.  PRS is an independent, not-for-profit group.  This document has been prepared without regard to the objectives or opinions of those who may receive it.

Human Rights, Politics

Citizenship Amendment Bill

There are many reasons to oppose the government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) combined with a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC). In its current form, the CAB seems to violate article 14 of the Constitution, which protects all persons, not just citizens, from discrimination. However, even those who support its stated objective should oppose it for one simple reason—its extremely high cost of error, which, given India’s poor state capacity, is inevitable.

The CAB aims to amend India’s Citizenship Act, which lays down the elements of Indian citizenship. The amendment states that “persons belonging to minority communities, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan… shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of that Act”. It protects individuals belonging to some groups from being declared illegal immigrants (and facing detention/deportation), and fast-tracks their citizenship, but categorically excludes Muslim immigrants from getting similar protection, even if they belong to minority and persecuted groups such as Ahmadis or Rohingyas.

The government is also considering a nationwide NRC. Once created, the NRC will list the names of all those included as Indian citizens. Those not on the list will get a chance to prove their status as citizens. If the exercise turns out like the one in Assam, those excluded will have a short period to appeal their exclusion, failing which they would face detention and deportation.

The exercise would be highly prone to error—both Type I and Type II. Type I errors, or false positives, mean mistakenly identifying a person as an immigrant from protected minority communities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, and erroneously giving them the benefit of Indian citizenship. Immigrants are usually a net economic benefit; so the costs of Type I errors are related to national security. These costs are not nationwide and typically limited to a handful of border districts in India.

Type II errors, or false negatives, occur when those who qualify as Indian citizens are mistakenly categorized as illegal immigrants. A nationwide NRC, if similar to the one in Assam, would imply that false negatives get sent to detention centres or deported, making Type II errors extremely costly. To minimize false negatives, the bar to qualify as a citizen has to be very simple and easily identifiable. Also, the state capacity to scrutinize the paperwork for the NRC has to be exceptionally high. The Indian state usually fails on both counts. Given the CAB’s current religious exclusionary basis, Muslims are at higher risk of exclusion through false negatives, though all groups, including Hindus, are likely to be affected by errors.

There are three main issues to consider here. The first is the trade-off between Type I and Type II errors. If, to avoid false positives, the government has a high level of scrutiny for NRC inclusion, all individuals will have the burden of meeting this higher bar. In the process, some might be mistakenly excluded. On the other hand, if the bar is set very low to prevent false negatives and erroneous exclusions, then some illegal immigrants may slip through the cracks. The current CAB framework, combined with the NRC, is set up to minimize false positives, which will automatically increase false negatives.

The second issue to consider is whether the costs of both kinds of errors are symmetric. In the case of symmetric costs, the trade-off between the two kinds of errors is of less concern. However, when the costs are asymmetric, the trade-off in the system must be considered. Illegal immigration is a minuscule problem nationwide and the concern of terrorist conduits is an issue in a handful of border districts. However, false negatives—that is, mistakenly excluding an Indian from the NRC—has an extremely high human cost because of the severe penalties. False negatives could tear families apart, and force the poor, who tend to lack documents, to spend their resources on legal appeals against detention, or spend years at detention centres. So, trading Type I errors for Type II errors is a very bad bargain for Indians.

The third issue is of the magnitude of error. If the government executes the task exceptionally well, such as for voter identity, and has a Type II error rate of just 5%, 67.5 million people will face action, equalling the human displacement caused by World War II. Most Indian systems have a far higher error rate. The State Of Aadhaar Report 2017-18 by IDinsight, covering 2,947 households, found that 8.8% of Aadhaar holders reported errors in their name, age, address or other information in their Aadhaar letter. In the NRC, a spelling mistake can deprive one of citizenship and 8.8% affects over 120 million people. If the Indian state outsources the project’s execution to an organization with capacity equalling Scandinavian government systems, with a very low error rate of 1%, 13.5 million Indians would still be erroneously excluded, equalling the human displacement caused by Partition.

Those who support the idea of the CAB and NRC need to take a hard look at our state capability to execute such a policy across the country. Once the human costs of error are acknowledged, surely even they would find it difficult to support such an error-prone exercise.

*Shruti Rajagopalan is a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, US

Climate Change

Javadekar: Why Ask India to Step up When Others Won’t Meet Their Climate Goals?

Madrid: A couple of days after he arrived in Madrid, India’s Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar set the proverbial cat among the pigeons when he said countries shouldn’t be expected to revise their emissions reduction targets when nearly every other country is not on track to meeting their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to the fight against climate change.

His words go against one of the UN’s key objectives at COP 25: to have all countries party to the Paris Agreement raise their ambitions vis-à-vis reducing emissions.

Speaking at COP25’s opening ceremony, UN secretary general António Guterres said he expected countries to show a “clear demonstration of increased ambition and commitment showing accountability, responsibility and leadership.”

“It is futile to talk about new targets right now, futile to talk about new ambitions or new programmes, unless we are able to implement our current targets under the Paris Agreement,” Javadekar said on Monday.

The UN’s recent emissions gap report estimated that if we continue to emit greenhouse gases at our current pace, the world’s surface could warm by 3.2º C on average by 2100. This is 1.7º C warmer than the Paris Agreement’s ideal threshold, which its ratifiers are expected to help meet, and 1.2º C warmer than the hard upper-limit.

According to another report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have already warmed Earth’s surface by 1.1º C.

“We should concentrate more on implementing the Paris Agreement rather than bring up new issues and new subjects at this stage,” Javadekar said. He added that he thought Guterres’s expectations would be unfair to countries like India, among the very few in the world on track to achieve its self-determined Paris Agreement targets.

“We are walking the talk. On all our three targets – reduction of emissions intensity, deployment of renewable energy and the creation of carbon sinks – we are doing well. We will not only achieve our targets but overachieve them,” he said.

Follow The Wire’s coverage of COP25 here.

It’s true that India is doing better than most countries vis-à-vis meeting its Paris Agreement goals but Javadekar’s other claims are premature, to say the least. The growth of renewable energy in India has slowed in the last few years, although it remains on track to meet its sector-specific targets by 2030, but not anytime sooner, as has Javadekar claimed.

India has also faltered in the creation of new carbon sinks; its claims to having increased forest cover were padded with data that included plantations as forests.

But in a scenario where other countries, particularly developed nations, aren’t doing nearly enough to meet their NDCs, Javadekar’s argument holds in principle, that expecting India to do even more could be unfair.

He also said countries should forget their pre-2020 pledges under the Kyoto Protocol, the climate agreement in force before the Paris Agreement came to be in 2015. (The protocol required only developed countries to cut emissions.) “The rich and developed countries are falling way behind their targets. Many of them have not even fulfilled their pre-2020 targets under the Kyoto Protocol and now they want us to forget those because 2020 is already here,” Javadekar said.

“Let them start implementing their Kyoto targets even now, and fulfil them over the next two to three years. We don’t mind an extension of deadline. But the targets cannot be sidelined or pushed aside.”

This is another contentious issue at COP 25 and on which India is taking a tough negotiating stance. Developed countries haven’t delivered on their mitigation obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. With the Paris Agreement set to enter into force next year, developed countries want the slate to be wiped clean, allowing them to start over. In opposition, India and multiple less-developed countries have been demanding that developed countries achieve their emissions reduction targets.

“Every study is showing that we are nowhere close to being on track to meet the Paris targets. There is a very clear gap between what needs to be done and what is being done,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, an additional secretary at the Union environment ministry and India’s chief negotiator at COP25, told The Wire.

India wants a work programme to be set up in Madrid to ensure a framework is in place for developed countries to be able to meet their Kyoto targets even after the regime has ended. “So they can do it, say, over two years. But it needs to happen. It’s a question of equity,” Prasad said.

Javadekar is expected to raise these and other issues when he makes a statement on India’s behalf at a high-level segment at COP25 on Tuesday evening. After that, he will have to cut short his trip and come back to India to vote in the Rajya Sabha on the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill.

Kabir Agarwal is in Madrid at the invitation of the Global Editors Network to cover COP25.

Economy

Dhoti & punjabi in Nobel ceremony, Economist Esther Duflo in a blue sari

Dressed in bandhgala and dhoti, Abhijit Banerjee Esther Duflo in a blue sari and Michael Kremmar in Nobel Prize 2019 ceremony
Abhijit Banerjee is the second Indian after Amartya Sen to win the Nobel prize in Economics. Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremmer together helped obtain reliable answers about the best ways to fight global poverty.

Clad in a bandhgala punjabi and a dhoti, as Abhijit Vinayak
Banerjee stepped onto the dais at Stockholm Concert Hall in Sweden on
Tuesday afternoon — along with his wife Esther Duflo and colleague
Michael Kremmer — to receive the Nobel Prize for their research in
economics, the city, too, rose in unison in front of their TV sets just like the
hundreds of delegates at Konserthuset, Stockholm, some 6,750kms away.
“This is what sets him apart. At the grandest stage of all, he is holding up
Indian tradition. Apart from what he has achieved in his field, these small
gestures set him apart from others and make us more proud of him. It was
a wonderful moment for us, watching our childhood friend, Jhima, receive
the honour and write history in his own right,” said Bappa Sen.

Dressed in a bandhgala jacket and dhoti, Indian-American Economist Abhijit Banerjee received the Nobel Prize in Economics in Sweden for his “experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.” Esther Duflo, who shared the prize, was dressed in a blue sari. Their colleague Michael Kremmer, meanwhile, wore a suit.

The award carries a purse of 9 million Swedish krona (about Rs 6.5 crore) to be shared among the three winners.

Born in Mumbai, Banerjee is the second Indian after Amartya Sen to win the Nobel prize in Economics. Like Sen, Banerjee, too, is an alumnus of Presidency College, now Presidency University.

While the couple, Banerjee and Duflo, are professors in the department of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Kremer is a professor in the department of economics at Harvard University.

Watch Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer receive their medals and diplomas at the award ceremony today. Congratulations!

They were awarded the 2019 Prize in Economic Sciences “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.”

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The trio’s research has, over the last two decades, helped obtain reliable answers about the best ways to fight global poverty. Their work has revolved around identifying “low-hanging fruits”, which are often the most effective interventions in improving outcomes in health and education for the poor.

Their work — breaking down the problem of global poverty into a number of smaller and more precise questions at individual and group level — has redefined research in development economics over the last 20 years. “This new research is now delivering a steady flow of concrete results,” stated the popular science background paper made available by the Academy.

Days before the award, Banerjee had blamed “recentralisation” as among the reasons compounding India’s economic slowdown and had advised the government to strengthen institutions, removing interference by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and withdraw cases “that look obviously politically motivated”. Incidentally, he was also one of the few faces that the Congress tapped ahead of the Lok Sabha elections this year.

Human Rights

India takes step toward blocking naturalization for Muslims: New York Times

India took a major step toward the official marginalization of Muslims on Tuesday as Lok Sabha passed a bill that would establish a religious test for migrants who want to become citizens, solidifying Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist agenda.

The measure would give migrants of all of South Asia’s major religions a clear path to Indian citizenship — except Islam. It is the most significant move yet to alter India’s secular nature enshrined by its founding leaders when the country gained independence in 1947.

The bill passed in the lower house a few minutes after midnight, following a few hours of debate. The vote was 311-80. The measure now moves to the upper house, the Rajya Sabha, where Modi seems to have enough allies that most analysts predict it will soon become law.

Muslim Indians see the new measure, called the Citizenship Amendment Bill, as the first step by the governing party to make second-class citizens of India’s 200 million Muslims, one of the largest Muslim populations in the world, and render many of them stateless.

Will Citizenship Amendment Bill legalise religious discrimination?

The legislation goes hand in hand with a contentious program that began in the northeastern state of Assam this year, in which all 33 million residents of the state had to prove, with documentary evidence, that they or their ancestors were Indian citizens. Approximately 2 million people — many of them Muslims, and many of them lifelong residents of India — were left off the state’s citizenship rolls after that exercise.

With the new citizenship bill, Modi’s party says it is trying to protect persecuted Hindus, Buddhists and Christians (and members of a few smaller religions) who migrate from predominantly Muslim countries such as Pakistan or Afghanistan.

But the legislation would also make it easier to incarcerate and deport Muslim residents, even those whose families have been in India for generations, if they cannot produce proof of citizenship.

In Assam, where the citizenship program began last summer, thousands of people have marched in the streets, hoisting placards and torches and shouting out their opposition to the bill.

(NYT News Service)

Environment

Ocean oxygen levels drop endangering marine life: Report

The loss of oxygen from the ocean due to climate change and nutrient pollution risks “dire effects” on sea life, fisheries and coastal communities, a global conservation body has warned

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said on Saturday that about 700 sites had been identified globally with low oxygen levels – up from only 45 in the 1960s.

In the same period, the group warned in the largest peer-reviewed study to date that the volume of anoxic waters – areas totally devoid of oxygen – have quadrupled.

“What we are seeing is a decline of 2 percent in the global oxygen level [in the oceans]. It doesn’t sound like a lot but this small change will have enormous ramifications,” Minna Epps, the IUCN’s global marine and polar programme director, told Al Jazeera.

“Deoxygenation will have an impact on biodiversity, on biomass of commercially important species and on vulnerable rare species. It will also have an impact on habitats. We are seeing species migrating because of this,” she added.

The report found that the loss of oxygen is increasingly threatening fish species such as tuna, marlin and sharks, all particularly sensitive to low levels of the life-giving gas due to their large size and energy demands.

“To curb ocean oxygen loss alongside the other disastrous impacts of climate change, world leaders must commit to immediate and substantial emission cuts.”

Dr Grethel Aguilar, IUCN Acting Director General

Read our new report on ocean deoxygenation http://ow.ly/p0L350xtz3Q 

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The ocean absorbs about a quarter of all fossil fuel emissions, but as global energy demand continues to grow there are fears that the world’s seas will eventually reach saturation point.

On current trends, oceans are expected to lose 3-4 percent of their oxygen globally by 2100.

However, most of that loss is predicted to be in the upper 1,000 metres (3,281 feet) – the richest part of the ocean for biodiversity.

“With this report, the scale of damage climate change is wreaking upon the ocean comes into stark focus,” Grethel Aguilar, the IUCN’s acting director, said.

“As the warming ocean loses oxygen, the delicate balance of marine life is thrown into disarray.”

The report on ocean oxygen loss concluded that deoxygenation is already altering the balance of marine life to the detriment of species across the food chain. The biomes that support about a fifth of the world’s current fish catch are formed by ocean currents that bring oxygen-poor water to coastlines.

These areas are especially vulnerable to even tiny variations in oxygen levels.

“Impacts here will ultimately ripple out and affect hundreds of millions of people,” the IUCN said.

The group this year issued a landmark assessment of the world’s natural habitats, concluding that human activity was threatening up to one million species with extinction.

Ocean life is already battling warmer temperatures, rampant overfishing and plastic pollution.

The World Meteorological Organization this week said that due to man-made emissions growth, the ocean is now 26 percent more acidic than before the Industrial Revolution.

“Ocean oxygen depletion is menacing marine ecosystems already under stress from ocean warming and acidification,” said Dan Laffoley, a senior marine science adviser at the IUCN.

“To stop the worrying expansion of oxygen-poor areas, we need to decisively curb greenhouse gas emissions as well as nutrient pollution from agriculture and other sources.”

The IUCN report also found that pollution around coastlines was having a significant effect on oxygen levels, with fertiliser and agricultural runoff promoting more algae growth, which in turn depletes oxygen as it decomposes.

World leaders will gather in Marseille in June for the IUCN’s World Conservation Congress.

Policymakers are currently in negotiations at the COP25 climate summit in Madrid charged with ratifying a comprehensive rulebook for the 2015 Paris accord.

“Decisions taken at the ongoing climate conference will determine whether our ocean continues to sustain a rich variety of life, or whether habitable, oxygen-rich marine areas are increasingly and irrevocably lost,”  Epps said from the Spanish capital.

Human Rights

Federal US commission seeks sanctions against home minister Amit Shah

WASHINGTON: A federal US commission on international religious freedom has said that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is a “dangerous turn in wrong direction” and sought American sanctions against home minister Amit Shah if the bill is passed by both houses of the Indian Parliament.
According to the proposed Bill, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, till December 31, 2014 facing religious persecution there, will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
In a statement issued on Monday, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said that it was deeply troubled over the passage of the bill in Lok Sabha.

Will Citizenship Amendment Bill legalise religious discrimination?

“If the CAB passes in both houses of Parliament, the US government should consider sanctions against the home minister Amit Shah and other principal leadership,” the commission said.
“USCIRF is ‘deeply troubled’ by the passage of the CAB, originally introduced by home minister Shah, in the Lok Sabha given the religion criterion in the bill,” it added.
Shah on Monday introduced the controversial bill in Lok Sabha,

where it was passed with 311 members favouring

it and 80 voting against it, will now be tabled in the Rajya Sabha for its nod.
Shah while introducing the bill had made it clear that people belonging to any religion should not have any fear under Prime Minister Narendra Modi government as he asserted that the bill will give relief to those minorities who have been living a painful life after facing persecution in neighbouring countries.

Shah asserted that the bill has the “endorsement of 130 crore Indian citizens” and rejected suggestions that the measure is anti-Muslims, saying it will give rights to persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
“Citizenship (Amendment) Bill has the endorsement of 130 crore citizens of the country as it was the part of the BJP manifesto in 2014 as well as 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” he said.
However, the bill has been opposed by the Congress, Trinamool Congress and other Opposition parties.
USCIRF alleged that the CAB enshrines a pathway to citizenship for immigrants that specifically excludes Muslims, setting a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion.
“The CAB is a dangerous turn in the wrong direction; it runs counter to India’s rich history of secular pluralism and the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law regardless of faith,” it said.
Stating that in conjunction with the ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) process in Assam and nationwide NRC that home Minister Shah seeks to propose, the commission said: “USCIRF fears that the Indian government is creating a religious test for Indian citizenship that would strip citizenship from millions of Muslims”.
It also said that for more than a decade now the Indian government has ignored the statements and annual reports of the USCIRF.
India from the days of the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime has consistently said that it does not recognises a third country’s views or reports on its internal affairs.
It is based on this ground that India for more than a decade now has denied visas to USCIRF to travel to India for their on the ground assessment of the religious freedom in India.
Recommendations of USCIRF are not enforceable. However, its recommendations are seriously taken into consideration by the US government in particular the State Department which is tasked with powers to take sanctionable actions against foreign entities and individuals for violation of religious freedom and human rights.
International

Climber shocked by climate change effects in Himalaya

By Ben Morse and Celine Ramseyer, for CNN

A former special forces soldier has taken the notion that “records are meant to be broken” to a whole new level.

Nepalese climber Nirmal “Nims” Purja smashed the record for taking the shortest time to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter-high mountains (about 26,300 feet).
The previous mark was just under eight years, but Purja took six months and six days, even finding time to rescue several fellow climbers. He also had to contend with having his oxygen stolen while on Lhotse, a neighboring peak to Mt. Everest.
Earlier this year, Purja shot to prominence when he photographed the “traffic jam” on the upper slopes of Everest (8,848m/29,029 feet) — bringing global attention to the mountain’s overcrowding.
But during his expeditions, the 36-year-old Purja says has also became acutely aware of the environmental changes the world is undergoing.

The queue on Everest, taken on May 22, 2019 and released by Purja's Project Possible expedition.

Over the space of a few years, the Nepalese has climbed several mountains in the Himalayas more than once. In doing so, Purja says he has seen the damaging effect of global warming.
“I climbed Dhaulagiri (8,167m) in 2014 and I went back again this year, the glacier is melting,” Purja told CNN Sport. “You can see a huge difference. And even on Everest as well, the Khumbu glacier.
“In 2014, I climbed Ama Dablam (6,812m). In 2018, I was there again to climb Ama Dablam but the difference was that in 2014 we had snow at camp one, which we could melt and obviously cook food and drink.
“But in 2018, it was completely different. We had to carry gallons and gallons of water from the base camp. It was so hard. At that point, I realized this is really not on, and I have been raising awareness about it. The Earth is our home and we should look after it.”

Nims Purja on Manaslu, the world's eighth highest peak at 8,163 meters.

Bigger than him

Purja scaled the first peak of his record attempt — the notoriously treacherous Annapurna 1 (8,091m) — on April 23 and his last — Tibet’s Shishapangma (8,027m) — on October 29.
With the help of his team, whom he now calls “brothers,” Purja broke another seven world records during “Project Possible.”
“The whole project, and I’ve said from day one, wasn’t about me,” he said.
“It’s about showing the world, our generation and the generation that comes ahead that anything in life is possible. The project was to establish a paradigm shift in perception of human potential.”
He also wanted to highlight the skills of Nepal’s Sherpa people and the homegrown climbing community.
“Even though they were top climbers, they didn’t get the right recognition,” he added. “Hopefully, I thought I could uplift their names.”

Nims Purja stands atop Nanga Parbat (8,126m).

The importance of the mind

Previously, the fastest-known time for conquering the “8,000ers” was seven years, 10 months and six days, a record set by South Korean Kim Chang-ho in 2013.
Kim broke the first known record — set by Polish climber Jerzy Kukuczka in 1987 — by a month and eight days.
Climbing just one “8,000er,” let alone all 14, is challenging enough given climbers are exposed to the “death zone” — a mountaineering term that describes altitudes over about 8,000m where the human body is exposed to insufficient levels of oxygen.
In the build-up to Purja’s attempt — which he describes as an “extremely, horrendously good experience” — he found he couldn’t do much psychological preparation.
“I don’t think you can really mentally prepare,” he said. “There’s not really set goals to it. In bigger missions like this, there will be so many obstacles, hurdles. There will be situations where you’re like, ‘OK, it’s enough.’ But if you just work around it, you need to have a positive mindset.
“My oxygen was stolen on Lhotse (8,516m) when I was going for the world record. If I would have gotten mad and said, ‘Oh, somebody stole my oxygen,’ and [been] just blaming people and just losing control of my mind, that would have a negative effect.
“But what I thought was I had to physically and positively inject in my mind for me to believe, ‘Hey, that oxygen could have been used to save someone’s life.’
“That’s the positive message I had to feed through in my brain by myself in order to mitigate the negatives.”

Purja at the summit of the 8,586-meter-tall Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain.

Helping others

Purja is a relatively inexperienced climber in comparison with his peers, having only completed his first major climb in 2012.
Previously a Gurkha soldier — a Nepalese contingent of the British Army — Purja progressed to the Special Boat Service (SBS), a British special forces unit under the auspices of the UK’s Royal Navy, eventually quitting the military in 2018 as a Lance Corporal.

16 years of Service with the British Millitary: 6 years with the Gurkhas: 10 years with the Special Boat Service .

I woke up this morning and found some old pics, the 1st one is 16 year old, which was taken during my basic training with the .

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter
Since focusing on climbing completely, Purja admits that he’s become “addicted,” partly because it has helped put things into perspective. Such was his love for the expedition, he’s also had the 14 “8,000ers” tattooed across his back.
“When I was in the Special Forces, you do really high value tasks,” he recalls. “But the joy and the stuff and the pride that you do in that point was still the same, but nobody knew about it then.
“I still had three world records when I was in the Special Forces. Nobody knew, but now it’s out and everybody kind of knew about it. Being completely honest, I don’t really like this kind of popular life, but hey, I think it’s part of life now.”
Whilst speed was obviously of the essence during Purja’s effort, the safety of the other climbers was always his priority.
The former soldier and his team also carried out a number of daring rescues, often putting their own lives in danger.

Purja on his ascent of Annapurna 1, the 10th highest mountain in the world at 8,091m.

Just days into his journey, Purja and his team rescued Malaysian climber Chin Wui Kin after he had been reported missing on Annapurna.
“We opened the route that has never been climbed since 1970, summitted, got back to base camp and it was only three hours,” he remembers. “We made the decision that we’re not going to go to our next mountain, even though for this project, I had sacrificed my job, my pension, sold my house, everything.
“But for me, nothing is more important than life. We went and conducted the rescue. From where we’re dropping down to where he was, on the summit day, it had taken us 18 hours to reach there, but actually when we did the rescue, we took only four hours.
“We were giving 100% of everything we had. We brought him down alive.”
Tragically, after initially being treated in a hospital in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, Chin was airlifted to a hospital in Singapore, where he eventually succumbed to his injuries.

A band of brothers

Purja has been assisted during the remarkable 189-day feat by his all-Nepalese team, comprised of some of his most trusted climbing companions.
On top of helping Purja, his team have also been able to break their own records. One of his colleagues, Mingma David Sherpa, became the youngest person to complete all 14 peaks at the age of 30.

Purja at the summit of Dhaulagiri with members of his team.

But after spending so much time together, Purja believes they are more than a team now.
“We started as a team, but now we are like brothers, we are like a family,” he explains. “The bond and the relationship we have is unique.
“We kind of have a similar mortal mindset and aim. Everybody didn’t really think that it was ‘Nims’ project’, everybody thought that this is ‘our project.’
“Some of the guys have climbed eight 8,000-meter peaks with me and that’s an opportunity for them as well. Soon I think most of my team should finish all the 14 highest mountains.”
International

Finland’s transportation minister Sanna Marin becomes country’s youngest prime minister

HELSINKI — Finland’s transportation minister Sanna Marin was selected by her Social Democratic party on Sunday to become the country’s youngest prime minister ever, taking over after the resignation of Antti Rinne.

The 34-year-old Marin, whose party is the largest in a five-member governing coalition, will be the world’s youngest serving prime minister when she takes office in the coming days.

Rinne resigned on Tuesday after a party in the coalition, the Centre Party, said it had lost confidence in him following his handling of a postal strike.

“We have a lot of work ahead to rebuild trust,” Marin told reporters after winning a narrow vote among the party leadership. Antti Lindtman, head of the party’s parliamentary group, was runner up.

Marin has had a swift rise in Finnish politics since becoming head of the city council of her industrial hometown of Tampere at the age of 27.

She will take over in the middle of a 3-day wave of strikes, which will halt production at some of Finland’s largest companies from Monday. The Confederation of Finnish Industries estimates the strikes will cost the companies a combined 500 million euros ($550 million) in lost revenue.

The centre-left coalition, which took office just six months ago, has agreed to continue with its political program stressing a shift to carbon neutrality, after Rinne announced he was stepping down at the demand of the Centre Party.

“We have a joint government program which glues the coalition together,” Marin said.

The timing of the change in leadership is awkward for Finland, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union until the end of the year, playing a central role in efforts to hammer out a new budget for the bloc.

(The New York Times, Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Peter Graff)