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Amidst the widespread controversies over the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, the Chief Minister of Haryana, Shri Manohar Lal Khattar, has announced the implementation of NRC in Haryana. The main objective behind this announcement is to weed out the undocumented immigrants in the state.
According to media reports “There are around seven lakh Bangladeshi refugees who are settled in Gurugram, Nuh and Faridabad districts of Haryana besides a handful of Rohingya immigrants who are working as domestic help or labourers”. The opposition leaders have, however, viewed this announcement as a means to deviate and distract the public from other major issues like the downfall of the Indian economy.
What is the National Register of Citizens (NRC)?
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register (document) containing the names of all Indian citizens, prepared by the Government of India with an aim of identifying and curbing illegal migrants. The updation of NRC has to be ideally done periodically so as to maintain detailed information of the citizens and to keep a proper check on illegal migration.
The NRC was prepared for the very first time in the year 1951 in the state of Assam as per the data of 1951 census. Recently, Assam carried out an NRC update exercise for the first time after 1951 and the final updated NRC excluded more than 19 lakh people.
One of the basic criteria for the NRC enrolment in Assam was that the names of applicant’s family members should either be in the first NRC prepared in 1951 or in any of the electoral rolls up to March 24, 1971.
In the absence of these admissible documents, the applicant could present other documents such as birth certificate, citizenship certificate, passport, government issued licence or certificate, refugee registration certificate, LIC policy, land and tenancy records, bank/post office accounts, permanent residential certificate, government employment certificate, ration card, educational certificate and court records.
What is the demographic profile of Haryana?
As per the 2011 Census data, the state of Haryana is stretched over an area of around 44,212 Sq. Km with a population of 25,351,462. The male and female population of the state are 13,494,734 and 11,856,728 respectively. Though Haryana is an industrial and manufacturing hub, agriculture is the mainstay of more than 65 per cent population of the state.
What are the possible consequences of NRC exercise in Haryana?
There are various challenges and concerns that the implementation of NRC in the state of Haryana would encounter. First of all, it is a mammoth task and demands a comprehensive analysis of all the relevant government records. There are possibilities of several discrepancies in the related documents.
For instance, many families may not possess the relevant documents because of various factors like lack of awareness, illiteracy and poverty. There may also be spelling errors, improper and insufficient information in the relevant documents, all of which can be reasons for excluding people from NRC, as has been evidenced by the Assam experience.
Moreover, there is apprehension regarding the lack of transparency and fairness in the implementation of NRC. It wouldn’t be justified to take away the citizenship of people merely on the ground of poor record-keeping and faulty details in the admissible documents.
Secondly, Haryana is a giant industrial and manufacturing hub and generates large employment opportunities. It not only contributes to the economic growth of the country but also provides job opportunities to many people who migrate to this state in search of job. There is a high probability that with the initiation of the process of NRC updation, the illegal migrants will move to the adjacent states. Such an outcome is equally undesirable.
Thirdly, the implementation of NRC can put the citizenship status of large number of people in great uncertainty. The poor, illiterate and landless people would be the most affected as they would be unable to understand the complicated legal processes and procedures and hence would not in a position to fight for their rights.
Fourthly, the opposition parties may launch agitation if NRC is implemented in the state. There may also be chances of communal violence and riots.
The implementation of NRC in the state of Assam has raised serious questions relating to the fate of India’s nearly two million ‘stateless’ people. Such a precarious situation may follow the implementation of NRC in Haryana also. Apparently, the so called systematic procedure and methodology adopted by government in Assam for the identification of infiltrators has only complicated the situation.
The updation of NRC in Assam also raised various concerns with respect to the violation of principles of natural justice, especially the rule of audi alteram partem, which means ‘listen to the other side’. The government should come up with effective ways to listen to the poor and marginalised excluded people and impart justice to them.
Therefore, the present government should focus on hearing and solving the claims, objections and grievances of the excluded citizens in Assam before initiating NRC process in other states.
This article is brought to you in collaboration with Ayushi Negi from Symbiosis Law School, Noida.