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 (Image courtesy: censusindia.gov.in)
 
 
The Rhetoric over enactment of Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CCA, 2019) & ensuing riots call for a serious introspection. We should debate calmly as to why successive regimes & the Opposition have compromised national interest to play vote-bank politics. 
 
Why no regime ever enacted a unified demographic code to govern citizenship, population control, emigration abroad and emigration within the country? Why illegal migrants continue to walk into India? Why infiltrators from countries adjoining both India & China don’t dare to enter the latter nation?
How infiltrators manage to get multiple identity cards including Aadhar and driving licence? This fact was recently admitted by Government in Parliament while answering question on Rohingyas, illegal migrants from Myanmar, staying in 12 States?
If they are being officially cared for as refugees, then why has the Government not enacted a refugee law as recommended by Group of Ministers (GoM) on Internal Security in 2001? 
Should India be promoted as the Mecca for refugees in spite of it being on the verge of getting shameful label as the world’s most populous nation by 2027?
Why Government selectively invokes global treaties to rationalize its variable stand on different segments of demography? When pressed by NGOs to welcome more refugees, the Government claims India is not a signatory to 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees. When it is asked to mandate population control, it takes shelter under global obligations.
It, for instance, last month stated in Parliament, “The Government does not propose to implement two-child policy since India is a signatory to the ICPD declaration of 1994 held at Cairo (International Conference on Population and Development) which advocates voluntary choice and honouring of reproductive rights of couples to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children”.
Questions are thus popping up by dozens after ushering in of CCA, 2019. This amended Law provides for grant of nationality to persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan residing in India with cut-off date of 31st December 2014. 
CCA, 2019 has left out Sri Lankan Tamils, many residing in India for more than 35 years. It has left out Muslims from neighbouring countries who enter illegally or simply disappear after making a legally valid entry into India. Hence the protests.
The specific reason for protest in North-East is that tribals and other indigenous communities fear that they would be reduced to minorities as has happened in Tripura and Assam.
CCA, 2019 would worsen India’s unfolding demographic-cum-climate change disaster. It would embolden radicals in Islamic countries to create conditions for scared minorities to rush to India. What if another war with Pakistan generates the next wave of refugees of minority religions to India?
Not only Pakistan and Bangladesh but also other countries, such as Malaysia and Fiji where Indians settled a few centuries ago, might create conditions that Government of the day would have no option but to amend CCA again & again.  
It is here pertinent to quote late Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava, an eminent lawyer who was a member of Constitution-drafting Constituent Assembly.
Participating in debate on Citizenship Bill, 1955 in Lok Sabha, Mr. Bhargava stated: “Pakistan is determined to see that not a single Hindu remains a national of Pakistan, and by stages it is giving the push. We have not been able to stem the tide of those who are coming out of Pakistan to India”.
The long-term road for peace and prosperity in South Asia, the ticking population Bomb, lies in reunification of Pakistan and Bangladesh with India.  There is no harm making a sincere attempt to explore options for phased integration of three nations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month compared opening of corridor to Kartarpur shrine in Pakistan to fall of Berlin Wall, that paved way for unification of two German countries.
In fact, countries of Indian sub-continent should therefore earnestly work for truly federal structure in which all religions are strictly confined to private space & federal Government is empowered to control both police and defence forces. 
India’s lax governance system & economy of continental size makes it an oasis for citizens of neighbouring countries. Even many African students love to stay put in India after completion of studies. Overstay of legally entering foreigners and illegal migrants are straining welfare-centric fiscal structure. It is constraining work opportunities for Indians who are already feeling the heat of global automation & job cuts-driven growth model. 
Unfortunately, Parliament did not discuss such issues while debating Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. It wasted time with MPs of all parties indulging in political posturing. Not a single leader dissected all elements of demographic dynamics to make India a liveable place for all. 
We need to tell the world in one voice that India is already over-strained. It houses more than 17% of the world population with paltry share of 2.4% of global land mass. Water shortages, already faced by crores of citizens, are bound to worsen in years to come. The Per capita water availability in South Asia, of which India is the largest country, has declined by 70 percent since 1950 as noted by the World Bank in June 2016 in its project document on Himalayan University.
Thousands of people in India die every year in fights over water, land, parking space and other resources. We thus need to find solution to socio-economic strife that is bound to worsen in future.  
The basic fault lies with the Government. It has not explained to public the inter-linkages between 1) size and diversity of population, 2) clash of rights over hyper-strained natural resources and welfare benefits including job reservations, 3) internal emigrations that result in mushrooming of slums and the clash between communities, 4) migration of Indians to other countries to make India’s population sustainable economically, socially and climatically
No discourse on citizenship & resulting tensions can be complete without looking at the historical origin of the problem. This is the key to finding solutions to demographic challenges. 
Mind you, emigration of Indians was recommended by Sir Bhore Committee way back in 1946. The Committee had listed three ways to prevent population growth from emerging as “a serious menace to the standard of life of the community”. These are: (a) by emigration; (b) by increasing the production of national resources and (c) by a reduction in the rate of additions to population.
Prior to this, the 1931 Census pitched for birth control to check population growth.  How many supporters or opponents of CCA, 2019 read an enlightening paper annexed in Census 1931. It is titled ‘The problem of population growth and an estimate of the future population of Bengal’. 
The Paper cautioned: “The prospect or even the possibility of so considerable an increase in a population already one of the densest in the world may lead to apprehension that the population of Bengal is rapidly approaching numbers which cannot be sustained at any reasonable standard-of living upon the means of subsistence which Bengal can produce for long”.
Populists regimes did not care to manage population problem. No regime ever canvassed for emigration. No Government even worked for liberal, large-scale grant of work permits for both skilled & unskilled Indians in bilateral or international agreements.
 The Government has been toying with idea of amending/replacing Emigration Act, 1983 since 2002. In January 2019, it released draft Emigration Bill, 2019 for public consultation after getting a flak for delay from a Parliament committee. 
Recall of population dynamics that happened in British India is important to understand how this dynamic has morphed into demographic disaster that might be trigger for global destruction over the long term.
Britishers worked for large-scale emigration of labour both within and outside of Indian sub-continent. They enacted laws for both type of migrations. Under Act No. VII of 1873, “emigration of labourers from the interior districts of India, generally from districts in Bihar and Oudh and parts of the North-Western Provinces, to the districts under the Chief Commissioner of Assam” was facilitated.
Indian Emigration Bill was thus piloted in 1881 in the Council of Governor General of India. Assam and Chittagong Emigration Bill was also debated in the same year. Britishers arranged migrations to promote tea & other plantations in India and their other overseas colonies. 
Assam demographic crisis has thus its origin in Britishers’ decision to promote tea plantations, timber, petroleum exploration and production, etc. The immigrants’ burden on Assam worsened in the run-up to 1971 war that liberated East Pakistan as Bangladesh.
In the absence of any law to regulate migration of people from one State to another and from rural areas to urban areas, migrants are moving wherever they see job prospects. Delhi & adjoining cities are, for instance, full of migrants residing on pavements and road dividers. 
The Government has thus to not only enact demographic code but also make public understand its linkage with economic growth. This would necessitate development of demography-focused planning
Demographic code should thus be marketed as essential means to an end – inclusive & faster growth for all. Socio-economic progress is an antidote to venom resulting from neglected demographic challenges. Faster growth means more revenue, which the Government can use to educate masses & create work opportunities. 
The bottom-line for demographic code-driven planning should be realistic minimum standard of living. The planning model should also set goals for measuring progress on basis of per capita availability of resources as compared to world averages
Demography-driven planning is however, a separate cup of tea. It requires elaboration in another column. In nutshell, the envisioned planning should pitch for emigration of Indian workers. The provision relating to mobility of workers under world trade agreement on services should be tapped fully under the aegis of World Trade Organization. Law & order should be managed effectively to not only improve ease of doing business but also give big boost to labour-intensive tourism sector. 
Similarly, marginalization of labour-intensive mining sector must end to lessen unemployment and social tensions. Many more solutions can emerge after enacting demographic code. 
If unified law is considered unfeasible, let the Government enact separate laws for main elements of demography. 
 
Published by taxindiaonline.com on 19th December 2019
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