THE HINDU EDITORIAL : AUGUST 2, 2018
THE HINDU EDITORIAL : AUGUST 2, 2018
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To what end this exercise?
The ongoing crisis in Assam over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is largely the creation of the Supreme Court. The final draft list of citizens, published on July 30, leaves out the names of approximately 40 lakh residents of Assam. Although political leaders and the Supreme Court itself have assured everyone that this is only a draft and everyone will be given an opportunity to prove his or her citizenship in accordance with the law before any “action” is taken, this is unlikely to inspire much confidence given what has transpired thus far.
Roots of the process
The recent history of the NRC can be traced to the public interest litigation filed in the Supreme Court by Assam Public Works seeking the removal of “illegal voters” from the electoral rolls of Assam and the preparation of the NRC as required under the Citizenship Act, 1955 and its rules. The NRC was supposed to be prepared as a consequence of the Assam Accord signed between the Union government and the All-Assam Students’ Union to end the agitation against “outsiders”, promising to identify and remove any foreigners from Assam who had entered the State after 1971.
Though the first NRC was framed in 1951, it and subsequent iterations were recognised to be faulty and the present exercise was supposed to be done in accordance with the 2003 rules.
Though filed in 2009, the case really picked up steam in 2013 as the Supreme Court directed the Union and State governments to speed up the process. A deadline of January 2016 was initially fixed to come up with the draft of the NRC though that was missed and after much delay, the eventual deadline of July 31, 2018 for the final draft of the NRC has been adhered to. All 3.3 crore residents of Assam were required to submit documents from a list prescribed by the government to prove that they were indeed citizens of India in accordance with the rules — a process that has been fraught with complexity and confusion.
Given that citizenship is a legal fiction, established or denied in accordance with a procedure under law, one would have hoped that the Supreme Court’s monitoring of the process would have ensured fairness and transparency. Regrettably it has not been so. From the non-transparent “family tree verification” process, to the somewhat arbitrary rejection of the gram panchayat certificates (affecting mostly women), the process has been riddled with legal inconsistencies and errors.
These are not minor errors. For instance, the supposedly robust family tree verification process has resulted in numerous instances of parents being on the draft list but children being left out — precisely the kinds of errors which were supposed to be excluded. Likewise, the number of people affected by the rejection of panchayat residency certificates is more than 45 lakh — a little more than the number of people who have been left out of the final list.
The rejection of the panchayat certificates has a judicial angle to it as well. In February 2017, in Manowara Bewa v. Union of India, the Gauhati High Court declared that certificates issued by gram panchayats could not be relied on by residents to seek inclusion in the NRC. This had the effect of putting the citizenship of a large number of women who relied on this document to establish marital relationships in doubt. The Supreme Court didn’t immediately set it aside, as the Assam government did not file an appeal against it. Rather, it was only in December that the Supreme Court clarified that the panchayat certificates could be relied upon, provided the documents themselves had been appropriately proved in court. However, it did not finally settle the matter — it remanded the matter back to the Gauhati High Court for fresh examination. The fate of lakhs of people relying on these documents remains uncertain as each person will now have to prove not only his or her linkages afresh, but also the documents themselves before the appropriate forum.
Role of the top court
Yet, none of this entered the court’s calculus. Why preparing the NRC within a deadline was more important than ensuring that there was legal clarity over the manner in which the claims of citizenship could be decided is not something that the Supreme Court thought it fit to clarify or go into at any stage in its hearing of the case.
A much larger question also remains unanswered and one which the court has not deigned to ask itself in the nine years it has been seized of this matter: to what end this exercise? Even if the objections and corrections are properly dealt with, there are likely to be many individuals (running into lakhs at the very least) who will be unable to prove Indian citizenship. The immediate consequence is that they will lose their right to vote (which temporarily ends the public interest litigation). But that only results in the beginning of a new problem: what will be the status of the several lakh individuals who would have suddenly lost Indian citizenship with no recourse in sight?
Even at the latest hearing which took place on July 31, the Supreme Court seemed unperturbed by the consequences of its actions, all the while making the right noises about there being no immediate consequences for those who have not found their names on the list and there being more opportunities to question the absence of names on the NRC. At some point, the Supreme Court will be confronted with the undeniable question, what action can it allow the government to take against those who are unable to prove that they are Indian citizens?
Will it allow the government to adopt the crude, communal rhetoric doing the rounds on social media and “push them out”? Will it take responsibility for the protection of the basic rights of those who have been rendered stateless and defenceless? Or will it take the Pontius Pilate option and wash its hands of the whole matter?
During the Constituent Assembly debates, B.R. Ambedkar remarked that the provision relating to citizenship in the Constitution caused the Drafting Committee the most headache (save for one other clause) as multiple drafts were worked on and rejected over the years before the present Article 5 was settled upon. For good reason too. As Vallabhbhai Patel had then said, India’s Constitution-making process, and especially its citizenship clause, was going to be scrutinised all over the world. As scholar Niraja Gopal Jayal has observed, this was probably because Indian nationalism during the freedom movement had not attempted to define itself on exclusive racial or ethnic bases.
Seventy years later, India’s approach to citizenship is once again going to be scrutinised by the world. The subcontinent has seen multiple, large-scale humanitarian crises erupt over questions of nationhood, citizenship and identity. One hopes the Supreme Court has the good sense not to spark off yet another for no apparent reason.
b) Prudent increase: on RBI’s rate hike
The decision by the Reserve Bank of India’s Monetary Policy Committee to raise benchmark interest rates again by 25 basis points is a prudent one. This is the second successive rate increase in as many months, a response to mounting uncertainties on the inflation front. Continuing volatility in crude oil prices, the recent softening notwithstanding, and its vulnerability to geopolitical tensions and supply disruptions is one of the main risks to the inflation outlook. Among the RBI’s other concerns are volatile global financial markets, possibilities of fiscal slippage at the Central and State levels, the likely impact of the increase in the minimum support price for kharif crops, and the staggered impact of upward revisions to house rent allowance paid by State governments. Rainfall has so far been 6% below the long-period average and deficient over a wider area than last year — more than a fifth of the country’s 36 sub-divisions have reported shortfalls. This has resulted in a drop in the total sown area under kharif. The monetary authority has flagged the need to keep a close watch on rain over the remainder of the season, given the risks regional imbalances may pose to paddy output and CPI inflation. The June round of the RBI’s own survey of household inflation expectations reveals that families see prices hardening even further over both the three- and 12-month horizons. Domestic economic activity having strengthened to a point where the output gap has ‘virtually closed’, manufacturers polled by the central bank have reported higher input costs and selling prices over the April-June quarter.
The portents could not be clearer. With retail inflation having accelerated to 5% in June, the RBI has revised its projection for CPI inflation in the second half of the current fiscal year to 4.8%, from the June forecast of 4.7%, and now sees price gains accelerating to 5% in the April-June quarter of 2019. Policymakers on the MPC have understandably spotlighted the risks to the domestic economic rebound from global developments. While rising trade protectionism threatens to impact investment flows, disrupt global supply chains and hurt all-round productivity, depreciations in the value of most currencies against the strengthening dollar have rippled through many major advanced and emerging economies, spurring inflation across these markets. The MPC’s primary remit is to ensure that retail inflation stays firmly within a band of 2-6%, and preferably anchored at 4% over the medium term. So there is no room to quibble over the committee’s majority decision to raise borrowing costs while retaining a ‘neutral’ policy stance. With inflation widely accepted as a hidden tax on the poor, the containment of price gains justifiably ought to be the raison d’etre of monetary policy.
Meaning: Occur; happen.
Example: “I’m going to find out exactly what transpired”
Synonyms: Happen, Occur
Meaning: The process of taking legal action.
Example: “The company wishes to avoid litigation”
Synonyms: Lawsuit, Case
Meaning: The arousing of public concern about an issue and pressing for action on it.
Example: “Widespread agitation for social reform”
Synonyms: Fighting, Campaigning
Meaning: Coming after something in time; following.
Example: “The theory was developed subsequent to the earthquake of 1906”
Synonyms: Following, Successive
Antonyms: Previous, Prior
Meaning: The process of doing something again and again, usually to improve it, or one of the times you do it.
Example: “The software is on its fifth iteration”
Meaning: Believe in and follow the practices of.
Example: “I do not adhere to any organized religion”
Meaning: Used to emphasize a statement or response confirming something already suggested.
Example: “It was not expected to last long, and indeed it took less than three weeks”
Meaning: (Of a situation or course of action) filled with (something undesirable).
Example: “Marketing any new product is fraught with danger”
Meaning: State that one refuses to admit the truth or existence of.
Example: “Both firms deny any responsibility for the tragedy”
Synonyms: Contradict, Repudiate
Meaning: (Of power or a ruling body) unrestrained and autocratic in the use of authority.
Example: “A country under arbitrary government”
Synonyms: Despotic, Tyrannical
Antonyms: Democratic, Accountable
Meaning: Fill or permeate (someone or something), especially with something undesirable.
Example: “The existing law is riddled with loopholes”
Synonyms: Permeate, Suffuse
Meaning: Strong and healthy; vigorous.
Example: “The Caplan family are a robust lot”
Synonyms: Strong, Sturdy
13) Relied on
Meaning: To need a particular thing or the help and support of someone or something in order to continue, to work correctly, or to succeed.
Example: “The success of this project relies on everyone making an effort”
Meaning: Place (a defendant) on bail or in custody, especially when a trial is adjourned.
Example: “He was remanded in custody for a week”
Meaning: The course of someone’s life, or the outcome of a situation for someone or something, seen as outside their control.
Example: “He stared at the faces of the committee, trying to guess his fate”
Synonyms: Future, Destiny
Meaning: A meeting or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.
Example: “We hope these pages act as a forum for debate”
Synonyms: Meeting, Assembly
Meaning: A particular method or system of calculation or reasoning.
Meaning: Not perturbed or concerned.
Example: “Kenneth seems unperturbed by the news”
Synonyms: Untroubled, Unworried
Antonyms: Perturbed, Anxious
Meaning: (Of a problem or difficulty) present itself to (someone) so that action must be taken.
Example: “The new government was confronted with many profound difficulties”
Synonyms: Trouble, Bother
Meaning: (Of an estimate or guess) likely to be only approximately accurate.
Example: “A crude estimate of the number of people available for work”
Meaning: Language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect, but which is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.
Example: “All we have from the Opposition is empty rhetoric”
Synonyms: Bombast, Magniloquence
Meaning: Provide or give (a service, help, etc.).
Example: “Money serves as a reward for services rendered”
Synonyms: Give, Provide
Meaning: Examine or inspect closely and thoroughly.
Example: “Customers were warned to scrutinize the small print”
Synonyms: Inspect, Survey
Antonyms: Glance at
Meaning: Happening between people of different races.
Example: “He had a vision of a society living in racial harmony”
Meaning: Relating to a population subgroup (within a larger or dominant national or cultural group) with a common national or cultural tradition.
Example: “Ethnic and cultural rights and traditions”
Synonyms: Racial, Genetic
Meaning: Break out suddenly and dramatically.
Example: “Fierce fighting erupted between the army and guerrillas”
Synonyms: Ensue, Arise
Antonyms: Die down
Meaning: The fact or status of being a nation; national identity or independence.
Example: “The day on which we celebrate our nationhood as New Zealanders”
Meaning: Acting with or showing care and thought for the future.
Example: “No prudent money manager would authorize a loan without first knowing its purpose”
Synonyms: Wise, Judicious
Antonyms: Unwise, Imprudent
Meaning: Organize and initiate (a campaign or other course of action).
Example: “The company had successfully mounted takeover bids”
Synonyms: Organize, Stage
Meaning: The quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.
Example: “Conservation authorities have realized the vulnerability of the local population”
Meaning: Astonish or deeply shock.
Example: “I was staggered to find it was six o’clock”
Synonyms: Astonish, Amaze
Meaning: Insufficient or inadequate.
Example: “The documentary evidence is deficient”
Synonyms: Lacking, Wanting
Antonyms: Excessive, Perfect
Meaning: Become tired or less enthusiastic or dynamic.
Example: “If you begin to flag, there is an excellent cafe to revive you”
Synonyms: Tire, Falter
Antonyms: Revive, Increase
Meaning: A reduction in the value of an asset over time, due in particular to wear and tear.
Example: “Provision should be made for depreciation of fixed assets”
Synonyms: Devaluation, Markdown
Meaning: (Of a sound or feeling) spread through a person, group, or place.
Example: “Applause rippled around the tables”
Meaning: Promote the development of; stimulate.
Example: “Governments cut interest rates to spur demand”
Synonyms: Stimulate, Encourage
Meaning: Secure firmly in position.
Example: “The tail is used as a hook with which the fish anchors itself to coral”
Synonyms: Secure, Attach
Meaning: Argue or raise objections about a trivial matter.
Example: “They are always quibbling about the amount they are prepared to pay”
Meaning: The attitude of a person or organization towards something; a standpoint.
Example: “The party is changing its stance on Europe”
Synonyms: Attitude, Opinion
40) Raison d’etre
Meaning: The most important reason or purpose for someone or something’s existence.
Example: “Seeking to shock is the catwalk’s raison d’être”
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