Making sense of CAA, Citizenship, Infiltration etc

Several parts of India is seeing huge protests over the citizenship amendment act or CAA. The primary contention seems to be that one particular community is left out of it and a possible hidden political agenda. I do not have a direct opinion on CAA/NRC at this stage, but would like to explain some of the concepts and phenomenon related to citizenship- you need to understand all these before you form an opinion about a law. Read this post only if you are open to learn and understand. If you have already formed an opinion in support or against CAA/NRC then this post will be of no use.

Fact 1: No country in the world is generous enough to give citizenship to everyone. 
Get this fact straight. Giving citizenship to someone is NOT an obligation, it is not a 'free of cost' activity and it is done either because a country needs skilled workforce or under humanitarian considerations.

Every country has limited natural resources, limited number of jobs, limited space. More the number of people, less resources per person, less employment opportunities per person, more the government spending on public services, law & order etc. Because of this, every country in the world has its own stringent laws before an outsider is allowed to stay permanently. Either there has to be an economic motive (work permits/PRs/Green cards are issued because of unique skill someone brings) or under a humanitarian consideration - to help people affected by war, genocide and other atrocities survive. Both are granted after lots of due diligence, paperwork and long process. Indian H1B holders are waiting for decades for US green card, Syrian war refugees who got asylum in Europe/elsewhere may take years before they get proper citizenship and so on.

So in essence, citizenship is not granted to anyone and everyone. Adequate investigation and thorough process is required. Details of this process varies from country to country depending on regional aspects and government policies. Right now the changes to this process that Govt of India has introduced is the bone of contention.

Fact 2: Economic Immigration is different from Asylum or refugee status.
While most countries are Ok to give some consideration to refugees or those whose life is at risk in their home country due to war or other reasons, it is economic immigration that causes majority of the problem. People often look to better their economic status by getting better jobs, better opportunities. When their home country is not prospering, there will be strong lure to go abroad. The legal way to work abroad is to get a work permit/PR etc-which is a time consuming and documentation heavy process. Many people manage to cross the border illegally and manage to settle abroad for years. Thousands of Indians have done this- Indians have migrated to UK, Canada and several other countries on tourist visa and never returned, or got visas with false papers and son. This is the main reasons we Indians need to apply for visa for every other country. No one trusts us easily. Process was lax in the past and many who migrated illegally have managed to survive, increase their gang size and even get citizenship abroad after long duration of stay. Today it is extremely difficult to pull of such stunts as there's extensive biometrics collected (fingerprints, eye scans, photos) and those who violate visa norms are tracked much easier than earlier and deported back to home countries. Even physical borders are strengthened so crossing border illegally is a lot more difficult.

UK home office regularly raids factories and other places, catches those working without proper permit, puts them in detention centres, feeds them and sends them back to their home country. Australia pays Indonesia to maintain detention centres to prevent illegal migration of people into Australia [watch]. There're lots of videos about this on Youtube- do watch them, before you wonder why Govt of India is building detention centres.

Though India is a developing country, it does face illegal economical immigration from neighboring countries. People from Bangladesh, Burma manage to sneak into India, spread all over India and live their life like Indians, doing a job, getting Indian Identity cards. These people have no life threatening issue back home- their only motive is money- each such infiltrator takes away job of a genuine Indian citizen, denies govt of its share of taxes and puts burden on government spending.

What is your personal take on economic migration? Are you ok for anyone to come into India and take away local jobs? Do you feel secure if everyone you deal with each day- driver, watchman, cleaner, vendor etc have come from other countries and locals feel undermined? Economic immigration needs to be dealt with iron hand. People should either find proper job in their home countries, or go abroad through official channel (like getting a work permit). Illegal infiltration for financial reason is NOT acceptable irrespective of religion, caste, origin country. This is the policy worldwide- irrespective of our personal opinion.

Refugees and Asylum seekers
Financial considerations apart, we are all human beings. When a place is war torn, when there are atrocities committed against certain people, it is natural for these people to seek shelter elsewhere and it is human for various governments accommodate such affected people. Because if denied entry these people may not survive for long. Israel provides support to Jews in distress worldwide. European countries provided refugee status to lakhs of people during ISIS war in Syria. India has accommodated lots of Srilankan Tamils during peak of LTTE crisis. Lots of Tibetian nationals are living in dedicated camps in different parts of India. So if there is a life and death situation in a country, neighboring countries often step in to help and they should. It is just not fair to let a fellow human suffer and die.

How to identify real refugees?
No illegal economic immigrant would readily accept they came in illegally to make money. Everyone will play victim card and try to seek citizenship under various excuses. Vote bank focused political parties also often turn a blind eye to the long term problem and let infiltrators settle down and get govt documents, all in the hopes of getting their votes. Thus authorities will need means to assess or differentiate an economic illegal immigrant vs someone whose life is in real danger in home country.

The current BJP Govt feels people of a specific religion of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan are not in danger. These are declared Islamic countries and fairly capable of taking care of their citizens belonging to majority religion in their countries. If you feel this is not correct then we need to equally question capabilities of these countries to provide basic safety to their citizens. However people opposing CAA seem to be caught on one thin logic "we are secular country, why not grant citizenship to everyone". If someone's life is in threat they they should be considered for refugee status irrespective of religion- no doubt. But most of India's neighbors are not secular. People of one religion get majority benefits there and people of other religions are shrinking in population and often suppressed and oppressed forcing them to seek refuge elsewhere. May be this is the basis for Govt's decision. If so, then solution should come from India and its neighboring countries together and not India alone.

Detention Camps
The news that Govt is building detention camps to people who do not qualify for citizenship is also raising questions. Lots of money is spent on its construction, more money is needed to maintain it, feed people etc. Is it worth? It is a tough question to ask because the answer lies in opportunity cost not possible to quantify easily. At a high level it is like asking why are we building jails to house criminals, spend money to feed them and maintain prisons. If all the prisoners are released and jails closed, how to quantify loss to the society arising from criminal activities, law & order problems, thefts etc? Yes, it is bit unfair to equate an illegal immigrant with criminal but most countries around the world have such detention camps.

At the minimum, detention camps serve as deterrent against economic immigration. If there is a process to verify credentials and fear of being put in detention centre this alone will prevent lots of potential immigrant from crossing the border. Already many Bangladeshis are returning to home country fearing capture in India. Once nationality of people in detention centre is identified, respective countries can be forced to accept them back. Bangladesh has already accepted to take back its citizens if any, living in India illegally.

Money spent on feeding the detainees vs opportunity cost of having them on the street, taking away jobs, incurring public expense on healthcare, infrastructure etc- this is hard to quantify.

Again, whatever I have said so far is only theory. Ground realities and practicalities are different beasts. There is always a political motive, deficiency in evaluation process and various other execution loopholes. Thus I am not confident to say everything in CAA/NRC is perfect and needs to be implemented right away. Central Govt has a mandate to protect India's borders and provide better facilities to its citizens. Those who entered illegally will face some music- but who, how much, how exactly etc are the questions that beg answers. Like other initiatives (GST, Demonetization etc) current BJP govt acts first, thinks later- so it could be same case with CAA/NRC. Some more thought process, working out all possible scenarios, taking public and opposition into confidence etc could have been done to collect possible feedbacks, explain the intentions and clearing doubts various people have on this topic.

My two cents.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. Well thought out opinion. Every thing is correct in fixing the creiteria for giving citizenship for neighbouring countries' people. But the reason the present rulers assigning to exclude one particular religion people is unacceptable. The date they fixed to determine the cutoff date is also ok. Why you are bringing another cretieria like religion? Then no question about Hindus from wherever they were except Srilanka. What Srinlankan Tamils have done why are excluded. Were they not sufferred persecution in the hands of majority Sinhalese of the island nation. Whether Hindu temples were not destroyed, Hindu (Saiva) scriptures were not put in fire at Jaffna Univerisity. Why the rulers are turning a blind eye to the recent past atrocities of Sinhalese. Rohingyas have not sufferred in the hands of Myanmer Buddhists.

    Then what is urgency to bring this Amendment where there are burning issues like slowdown of economy, unemployment, slow growth rate of GDP, relief to natural disaster victims, etc. It is giving room for that the rulers are proceeding in their own hidden agenda which will not help the Nation for

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