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THE CASE AGAINST NATIONAL ID CARDS & NPR
The Citizenship Act 1955 was amended by insertion of Sec 14 – A, through Act 6 of 2004 to provide for a “National Register of Indian Citizens”,” compulsorily register every citizen of India” and “to issue national identity card to him”. Clause (5) of Sec 14 – A stated that the “procedure to be followed in compulsory registration of citizens of India shall be as may be prescribed.”
The procedure is not made public although, the Department of Information Technology has, in its website, a list of FAQs. Sec 14 – A has the title, “Issue of national identity cards”. The National register of Indian Citizens is usually called National Population Register (NPR). The amendment of the Citizenship Act in 2004 was for grant of dual citizenship. The Government of India “has taken the opportunity of introducing a scheme for the compulsory registration of every citizen of India and for this purpose to issue national identity cards”.
The objectives of the said amendment include prevention of illegal migrants from becoming eligible for Indian citizenship, provision of compulsory registration, issue of national identity cards to citizens and enhancement of penalty for violation of its provisions and of the Rules framed under the Act. The penalties are imprisonment of up to five years and fine of Rs. 50,000.
The FAQs make interesting reading. A statement in it says that a person could be struck off from the NPR. It does not say, how or by whom, or under what circumstances. The FAQs inform the ways in which Aadhaar (UID) numbers and NPR would be linked. State governments could add up to 10 additional data fields in their “KYR” (Know Your Resident) databases and link these databases to the Aadhaar (UID) numbers. FAQs inform us very sweetly, that mechanisms for continuous updating the data are being contemplated. In other words, the Government is saying that they would first act and then think! The FAQs explain the objective of the NPR as the creation of a “comprehensive identity database in the country with full identification and other details by registering every usual resident in the country”. It adds, “This would help in better targeting of benefits and services under the Government schemes / programs, improve NPR and prevent identity fraud”.
This is evidently the spin of UIDAI to make this nefarious scheme palatable to the people. The amendment to the Citizenship Act did not have the objective of “better targeting of benefits”. Many countries, much smaller than India, have tried ID cards for preventing illegal migrants from becoming citizens. They failed to achieve this objective and gave up such foolish schemes. The most notable among these are UK and Australia.
The deceit of politicians and bureaucrats who promote and try to implement such evil schemes is clear. They hope to manipulate and control people with information in the databases.
ID cards and databases could never prevent illegal migration or prevent such migrants from becoming citizens. The solution is better border controls and honest people and government officials. A centralised ID is no better than the IDs people already have. Multipurpose ID Cards are impossible and vulnerable to abuse. Their loss could be disastrous. It is not identity or the lack of it that denies welfare benefits to citizens. Corruption of politicians, bureaucrats and businesspersons is the root cause. Identity does not make a person eligible for benefits. Eligibility decisions are in the hands of the corrupt. Benefits are ploys used by the corrupt to fool people into believing that such databases are for the good of people, when it is actually an instrument of oppression and control.
It must be opposed.
A National Register of Citizens is useless for any purpose. It is impossible to set up with accuracy or maintain. It is vulnerable to abuse. If after 60 years, the governments have not succeeded in having accurate voter lists, how do they expect to have a register of people? This is a waste of public money.
The amendment to the Citizenship Act to set up such a database is illegal and unconstitutional.
The Rules made under the Act are also without the sanction of law.
In a country where over 30 % of legislators have criminal records, where accused or convicted criminals in jail contest elections and some of these succeed in being elected, where legislators and ministers are charged with serious crimes of murder, rape and extortion, to set up a databases of people and give control of these in their hands, would be dangerous for democracy, liberty and threatening to the life of people.
Let us unite to fight this menace!