People at a NRC Seva Kendra in Guwahati in May
People at an NRC Seva Kendra in Guwahati | ANI File Photo
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Remaking the idea of an Indian citizen

Yamini Aiyar | President and chief executive, Centre for Policy Research
Hindustan Times

Aiyar also writes about the NRC list and says it has revealed several weaknesses in the “construction of citizenship” in India today. The NRC illustrates how politics and institutional processes have intersected in Assam, she says.

The onus was shifted on Assamese residents to prove their citizenship and furnish appropriate documents, which the State then verified. But reports show that the government’s own records were inconsistent, leading to doubts about their own documentation. The Supreme Court regularly intervened in matters of “on-ground bureaucracy”, and passed conflicting orders about the kind of documents required for the process.

The number of citizens excluded from the NRC dropped from 4 million in 2018 to 1.96 million now, showing how “arbitrary and disempowering the process of authentication” has been.

The NRC shows how citizenship determined by documents could become a way for the State to exercise “coercion and exclusion”. The author says the NRC has “provided the political fuel” to push the demand for the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which many believe could have dire consequences.

Not without humanity

Mitra Phukan | Assam-based novelist
The Indian Express

Phukan writes on the final NRC list published in Assam last week. He says “identity” has been a central issue in the state for years, with both peaceful and violent agitations demanding the removal of “outsiders”.

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She says the “heartless” NRC process has added panic amid disastrous floods in Assam. The missing names of Assam residents, or their loved ones, has caused people to commit suicide and fall into depression.

It was believed that “illiterate respondents” would not have their documents, but in reality, those considered “foreigners” or “Bangladeshis” have actually preserved their documents after years of insecurity. On the other hand, many “Assamese” names were missing from the list.

The All Assam Students’ Union feels the NRC is incomplete while political parties like BJP, AGP and Congress are also unhappy, albeit for different reasons.

For decades, the supposed presence of 50 lakh illegal immigrants has caused fears about preserving the “language, religion and culture” of Assam. Bangladesh’s formation in 1971 caused a huge influx of refugees in Assam, “straining its resources” and blurring its borders.

A “valid and accurate” NRC is needed, but not at the expense of humanity. Not giving voting rights might quell the fear that migrants become vote banks to certain parties, but “porous borders” must be sealed first, argues Phukan.

A road map for Kashmir’s economic development

Vasant Dhar | Professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business and the Center for Data Science
Hindustan Times

Dhar writes that the way Article 370 in Kashmir was removed was “unfortunate”, but the Article was “regressive” in terms of development. Kashmiris should change their mindset and use this moment to strengthen their economy and infrastructure.

Dhar says that under Article 370 there was an “impossible climate” for business, leading to widespread corruption and“inefficient courts”, plus local leaders who were stuck between terrorists and the central government. Himachal Pradesh, an agrarian state with half the population of Kashmir, has a GDP of $22 million compared to Kashmir’s $18 million GDP.

Two changes must be made. First, Kashmiris must look forward, rather than back at their past. Secondly, the central government must convince angered Kashmiris that a concrete economic plan that benefits them will be put into action soon.

Dhar says that 5 per cent investment of $1 billion a year could kick start economic activity in Kashmir to support infrastructure — roads, schools and hospitals, and services — courts, banks, government.

It is yet to be seen how Kashmiris will feel about private investment, but “a business approach is in their best interest”.

A democratic language, an authoritarian writ

Neera Chandhoke | Former professor of political science at Delhi University
The Hindu

Chandhoke writes that democracy used to be the hallmark of “substantive disagreements”, but in the second decade of the 21st-century right-wing populist governments have “hollowed out” the idea of democracy. Populists do not enjoy criticism from individuals or forums like the Parliament, and any criticism of their policies is dismissed as “anti-national”.

Populists have turned “representative institutes” into “projects of power”. In USA, the Republican-controlled Senate continually blocks legislation by the House of Representatives, which is controlled by the Democrats who try to pass pro-democracy bills regarding equal pay, healthcare.

President Donald Trump “shut down the government” after he rejected funds to build a wall at the Mexican border. Similarly, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to shut down the Parliament in order to push his Brexit agenda. In India, the BJP’s move to change the status of J&K breached protocol as the consent of representatives of the erstwhile state was not sought.

Populist leaders may “speak the language of democracy”, but their solutions are “authoritarian”. We have returned to the “days of personalised power and suppression of democratic institutions,” says Chandhoke.

Kashmir Brews in DC

Seema Sirohi | Columnist for The Economic Times, long-time watcher of India-US relations and former foreign editor of Outlook
Economic Times

Sirohi discusses the political response in the US on Kashmir issue. She writes that the Kashmir issue has now “entered the debate among Presidential hopefuls”. She says that while the western governments have agreed that removal of Article 370 is an internal matter, India’s approach in dealing with the ongoing crisis is open to comment.

She mentions that “a public hearing in the US House of Representatives is almost a certainty”. Sirohi also mentions that “at least 13 members of the House of Representatives have made statements or written an op-ed expressing varying degrees of concern”.

While the US State Department and the White House have largely been supportive of India on this issue, differences between them have started to surface with some State Department diplomats wanting to raise the issue of human rights.

There is a free market solution for our immigration worries

Jagannathan | Editorial director of Swarajya magazine

Jagannathan writes that from the perspective of the market and economy, “the religious or ethnic identities of undocumented migrants from Bangladesh do not matter”. He writes that they are here “because our economy needs them in some way”.

He mentions that in all major capitalist countries like the US, Japan and China, there is a lot of opposition to the “free flow of one key factor of production — labour”. He argues that migrants play a very crucial role in any capitalist economy since they agree to work at wages the employers find viable.

He, therefore, asks if “capitalism can coexist with people’s cultural resistance to immigrants”. He suggests that to overcome the problem of cultural resistance, “the right to work across borders” should be separated from “automatic rights to citizenship, including citizenship for children born to immigrant parents”. This will minimise the local resistance, he adds.

A next generation fiscal framework

Neelkanth Mishra | Co-head of Asia Pacific Strategy and India Strategist for Credit Suisse
Business Standard

Mishra writes that “the current economic slowdown is exposing challenges in how the country manages itself fiscally”. First, he writes that a fixed annual fiscal deficit target is pro-cyclical, since it makes a slowing economy slower and a rising one go faster. He writes that a fixed target “is a ‘first generation’ fiscal rule that started being adopted in Western Europe some four decades ago”. The second generation fiscal rules “set medium-term targets and provide escape clauses”.

He also writes that the government appears to think that if fiscal deficit increases, then the yields on government bonds will increase and borrowing costs for the private sector will increase as well.

He recommends that it is perhaps now time to consider Dr Bibek Debroy’s idea of setting up “a body where the Centre and the states get together to plan public expenditure”. It will allow the Centre and states to collaborate better on long-term targets, he says.

How blockchain can make an important impact on education

Srinivas Kamadi | Vice-president and services offering head, Infosys
Financial Express

Kamadi discusses the transformative impact the blockchain technology can have on education. In simple terms, blockchain can be defined as  “a time-stamped series of immutable record of data that is managed by cluster of computers not owned by any single entity.” He writes that it is important to create a direct link between students in universities and their potential employers. The process of recording of students’ capabilities, however, can suffer from two major problems, he says.

First, records cannot present a complete picture of the knowledge a student has and this also applies for working professionals. Second, a lot of people use fake certificates.

Kamadi writes that these problems can be solved through blockchain technology. He says that even though most university records have now been digitised, they still exist in on-site databases. Blockchain will allow for the “creation of a central server on the cloud”. Individual profiles can be created on this server, which can be updated in real time. It will also allow for easier verification of credentials, he writes.

Kamadi also notes that it will provide more digital security and reduce cyber threats.

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