India does not need NPR, CAA, 100 ex-civil servants write open letter

Updated: Jan 10, 2020, 11:13 IST | PTI | New Delhi

Retired bureaucrats said there was no need for the National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during a rally in New Delhi. Picture/AFP
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during a rally in New Delhi. Picture/AFP

New Delhi: Citing grave reservations about the constitutional validity of the CAA, as many as 106 retired bureaucrats on Thursday wrote an open letter to people saying both the NPR and the NRIC were "unnecessary and wasteful exercises", which will cause hardships to the public. The former bureaucrats, including former Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Najeeb Jung, the then Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar and former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah urged fellow citizens to insist the Union government to repeal relevant sections of Citizenship Act, 1955, pertaining to the issue of national identity cards.

"We have our grave reservations about the Constitutional validity of the CAA provisions, which we also consider to be morally indefensible. We would like to emphasise that a statute that consciously excludes the Muslim religion from its purview is bound to give rise to apprehensions in what is a very large segment of India's population," said the letter, titled "India does not need the CAA-NPR-NRIC".

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement at a public meeting in Delhi on December 22 that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) are not linked contradicts the averments of his home minister (Amit Shah) on repeated occasions in various fora, it said. "At a time when the economic situation in the country warrants the closest attention of the government, India can ill afford a situation where the citizenry and the government enter into confrontation on the roads," said the letter.

"Nor is it desirable to have a situation where the majority of State Governments are not inclined to implement the NPR/NRIC, leading to an impasse in centre-state relations, so crucial in a federal set up like India," it added. Above all, it said, "We see a situation developing where India is in danger of losing international goodwill and alienating its immediate neighbours, with adverse consequences for the security set-up in the sub-continent".

The retired bureaucrats said there was no need for the National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC). "Our group of former civil servants, with many years of service in the public sphere, is firmly of the view that both the NPR and the NRIC are unnecessary and wasteful exercises, which will cause hardship to the public at large and will also entail public expenditure that is better spent on schemes benefiting the poor and disadvantaged sections of society," the letter said.

They also constitute an invasion of the citizens' right to privacy, since a lot of information, including Aadhaar, mobile numbers and voter IDs will be listed in a document, with scope for misuse, it said. "We are apprehensive that the vast powers to include or exclude a person from the Local Register of Indian Citizens that is going to be vested in the bureaucracy at a fairly junior level has the scope to be employed in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner, subject to local pressures and to meet specific political objectives, not to mention the unbridled scope for large-scale corruption," said the letter.

The former civil servants said that worrying reports are already coming in of people in different parts of India rushing in panic to obtain the necessary birth documents. "The problem is magnified in a country where the maintenance of birth records is poor, coupled with highly inefficient birth registration systems," they said.

The provisions of the CAA, coupled with rather aggressive statements over the last few years from the highest levels of this government, have rightly caused deep unease among the country's Muslims, who have already faced discrimination and attacks on issues ranging from allegations of 'love jihad' to cattle smuggling and beef consumption, the letter said.

"That the Muslim community has had to face the brunt of police action in recent days only in those states where the local police is controlled by the party in power at the centre only adds credence to the widespread feeling that the NPR-NRIC exercise could be used for selective targeting of specific communities and individuals," it said.

The former bureaucrats asked people to urge the government to withdraw the Foreigners (Tribunals) Amendment Order, 2019 and withdraw all instructions for construction of detention camps, besides repealing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, according to the letter. They also questioned the widespread setting up of Foreigners' Tribunals and detention camps under the Foreigners (Tribunals) Amendment Order, 2019.

"While the central government may contend that there is no such intention, it was surely impolitic, given the prevailing atmosphere in Assam and elsewhere, to issue such blanket orders delegating powers for constituting Foreigners' Tribunals. The experience with Foreigners' Tribunals in Assam has been, to put it bluntly, traumatic for those at the receiving end," the letter said.

It said, after running the gamut of gathering documents and answering objections to their citizenship claims, "doubtful citizens" have also had to contend with these tribunals, the composition and functioning of which were highly discretionary and arbitrary. "Consequently, a number of citizens lost their lives in the quest for affirming citizenship or have had to suffer the indignity of incarceration in detention camps," the letter said.

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