Politics amid pandemic: Modi govt’s haste to grant citizenship to non-Muslim foreigners raises speculation

Mafazah Sharafuddin
May 30, 2021

While still suffering through the deadly second wave of the pandemic, the Ministry of Home Affairs gave the go ahead to the authorities in 13 districts to grant citizenship to non-Muslim applicants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh under the existing rules. The authorities are to review, verify and grant citizenship based on the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship Rules 2009. 

Districts within Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab have been given the power to grant citizenship to minorities from aforementioned neighboring countries. This group of minorities is Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians. 

It is baffling why the government would make this move while the rules of the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 is still not concrete. They plan to continue the discussion while the other applicants get granted citizenship in these 13 districts. In May, the PM Narendra Modi led government sought more time, citing COVID as the reason why they are yet to give a concrete set of rules. While the rules of a law are customarily notified within 6 months, the CAA continues this way 18 months later. 

There are several reasons why this decision should be scrutinized. 

Firstly, the country is going through a massive catastrophe. Arguably the worst catastrophe India has suffered as an independent nation. It is no secret that amidst the pandemic, there is a massive health crisis, coinciding with a financial crisis. 

The public are suffering under abrupt and improperly done lockdowns, crises for oxygen, hospital beds, medicines, etc. There has been a huge wave of unemployment. Daily wage workers have been devastated financially by the lockdowns. There has been a death toll of over 3.2 lakhs. The bodies of the people who passed away are piling up, with not enough staff or area to properly deal with them. 

What the government prioritizes truly shines through after this new development. The public call for help and proper administration over social media and via various social worker groups, those pleas have seen no answer. At the same time, the enactment of the Citizenship Act is not only unnecessary, but is also likely to cause people to congregate for verification.

Not just that, but the CAA garners attention. Whether it is positive or negative, the CAA garners the attention of the people. The government, as of now, is desperately fielding questions about the underreporting of COVID deaths, future plans, vaccinations and accusations of inefficient handling of the Coronavirus crisis. It almost seems too opportune a moment for something like this to take the limelight. 

In addition to this, the vaccination drive is far from being complete. While Home Minister Amit Shah, earlier this year, said that the CAA rules will be framed after the vaccination drive is complete, the vaccination drive seems to have gone completely off track. The numbers projected and the numbers implemented differ greatly. With this in mind, it seems precarious to begin implementation of the Citizenship Act at this stage. 

The Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 was met with protests all over India. People claimed the act was unconstitutional and discriminatory. There was a huge opposition to the act, with students throughout the country taking to the streets and protesting. The protests continued till early 2020, and only ended once the pandemic made it impossible to continue. The dispersal of Shahin Bagh was somber moment for activists and sympathizers all over India.

Now, as the issue begins to brew again, the public are faced with an impossible situation. Much like in Lakshadweep, where legislations are being passed against the will of the people while they can’t take to the streets, all of India are stuck on the sidelines. 

The CAA protesters not only took to the streets, but made an active effort to spread the information needed to have an informed opinion on the issue. Prolific newspapers like The Hindu were constantly posting editorials and opinion pieces speaking against the CAA. It was a unifying protest. 

At this moment, people are unable to take to the streets. For anyone who has social responsibility, a protest of the like of those that took place at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 would be impossible. Even if the CAA issue rises once more, the people are confined to media houses and social media to give their opinions. 

While this does send a message, it does not actively disrupt the comfort of the authorities. It seems curious to make this move during the heat of the second wave of the pandemic. 

There are no coincidences in politics. 

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News Network
November 22,2021

Bengaluru, Nov 22: As many as 24 persons lost their lives due to tragedies related to the heavy rainfall in Karnataka since September. The rains have also caused loss of agricultural crops in five lakh hectares in the state.

These were some of the important points that emerged from the Sunday evening meeting chaired by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai at his home office, Krishna, to review the damage caused by incessant rains in various parts of the state.

According to sources, the preliminary report on the damages stated that 658 houses were completely damaged and 8,495 houses were partially damaged. It has also resulted in the death of 191 livestock.

Around 5 lakh hectares of agricultural crops were lost and the horticulture crop loss has been assessed at 30,114 hectares. The continuous rains have damaged 2,203 kilometres of roads in the state.

As many as 165 bridges are also damaged. The report mentioned that 1,225 school buildings, 39 public health centre (PHC) buildings in various districts are also severely damaged by rains. 1,674 electric poles are damaged and 278 transformers have also suffered damages, the report says.

Bengaluru Urban, Bengaluru Rural, Tumakuru, Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Ramanagar, Hassan districts have suffered extensively.

An amount of Rs 689 crore has been made available with District Commissioners in districts under the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF). The Chief Minister Bommai has assured allocation of more funds if necessary.

Officers of the Agriculture department at all levels were instructed to conduct surveys of crop losses. Crops in 3.43 lakh hectares were affected due to incessant rains in August and September affecting 1.5 lakh farmers and Rs 130 crore has been released for them. Compensation for 79,000 farmers is pending and Chief Minister Bommai instructed for the release of Rs 79 crore towards clearing the compensation due for them.

Action for immediate release of Rs 1 lakh each as the first installment of relief for those lost their houses. Officers have been instructed to take action for speedy disbursal of crop loss insurance amount by the insurance companies. Orders were issued to take up the road repair works immediately after the rain spell in the meeting.

It was also suggested to take up the repair of irrigation tanks on war-footing. The government has also decided to release Rs 25 lakh for each zone in the BBMP limits for pothole fillings. Instructions for submitting ward wise reports on damages in the BBMP limits have been given.

Home Guards, Civil Defence Force teams are ready to take up the rescue and relief work. Officers were instructed to augment their strength, if necessary in the meeting.

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Agencies
November 20,2021

modishame.jpg

New Delhi, Nov 20: Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have caved in to farmers' demands that he scraps laws they say threaten their livelihoods.

But the reaction to the shock U-turn in the northern states, where Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faces key elections next year, has been less than positive, a worrying sign for a leader seeking to maintain his grip on national politics.

In Uttar Pradesh's Mohraniya, farmer Guru Sevak Singh said that he and others like him lost faith in Modi and his party.

"Today Prime Minister Modi realised that he was committing blunder, but it took him a year to recognise this and only because he now knows farmers will not vote for his party ever again," said Singh.

For the young farmer, the matter is deeply personal.

Singh's 19-year-old brother Guruvinder was killed in October when a car ploughed into a crowd protesting against the farm legislation, one of eight people who died in a spate of violence related to the farmers' uprising.

Thousands of agricultural workers have protested outside New Delhi and beyond for more than a year, shrugging off the pandemic to disrupt traffic and pile pressure on Modi and the BJP who say the new laws were key to modernising the sector.

"Today I can announce that my brother is a martyr," Singh told Reuters, weeping as he held a picture of his dead brother.

"My brother is among those brave farmers who sacrificed their lives to prove that the government was implementing laws to destroy the agrarian economy," he added.

Around him were several police officers, who Singh said were provided after his brother and three others were killed by the car. Ashish Mishra, son of MoS Ajay, is in police custody in relation to the incident.

Ajay Mishra Teni said at the time that his son was not at the site and that a car driven by "our driver" had lost control and hit the farmers after "miscreants" pelted it with stones and attacked it with sticks and swords.

'How can we forget?'

In 2020, the Modi government passed three farm laws in a bid to overhaul the agriculture sector that employs about 60 per cent of India's workforce but is deeply inefficient, in debt and prone to pricing wars.

Angry farmers took to the streets, saying the reforms put their jobs at risk and handed control over crops and prices to private corporations.

The resulting protest movement became one of the country's biggest and most protracted.

Leaders of six farmer unions who spearheaded the movement in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab states said they would not forgive a government that labelled protesting farmers as terrorists and anti-nationals.

"Farmers were beaten with sticks, rods and detained for demanding legitimate rights ... farmers were mowed down by a speeding car belonging to a minister's family ... tell me how can we forget it all?" said Sudhakar Rai, a senior member of a farmers' union in Uttar Pradesh.

Rai said at least 170 farmers were killed during anti-farm law protests across the country. There are no official data to verify his claims.

A senior BJP member who declined to be named said the decision to repeal the laws was taken by Modi after he consulted a top farmers' association affiliated to his party.

The politician, who was at the meeting when the party agreed to back down, said those present conceded the BJP had failed to communicate the benefits of the new laws clearly enough.

Leaders of the opposition and some analysts said Modi's move was linked to state elections next year in Uttar Pradesh - which accounts for more parliamentary seats than any other state - and Punjab.

"What cannot be achieved by democratic protests can be achieved by the fear of impending elections!" wrote P. Chidambaram, a senior figure in the opposition Congress party, on Twitter.

But farmers like Singh warned that the government could pay a price for its treatment of farmers.

"We are the backbone of the country and Modi has today accepted that his policies were against farmers," said Singh. "I lost my brother in this mess and no one can bring him back."

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News Network
November 18,2021

Lahore, Nov 18: Pakistan’s parliament on Wednesday passed a bill allowing the use of electronic machines for voting. The opposition said the policy is an attempt to rig the next elections.

Lawmakers also passed a bill to grant the right to vote to expats. The bills still must be signed into law by President Arif Alvi, a formality.

The opposition wants elections to continue under a decades-old system that features paper ballots and manual vote-counting.

Khan, who was present in the parliament, has defended the legislation, saying he wanted to ensure free and fair elections. Khan says millions of Pakistanis overseas should be given the right to vote for the candidates of their choice.

In his speech before the bills were passed, the opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif said Prime Minister Imran Khan was trying to manipulate results of the next parliamentary elections, in 2023. 

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who leads the opposition Pakistan People's Party, warned of a boycott of the next elections if electronic counting machines were used.

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