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
September 7,2021

After two cases of the deadly Nipah virus emerged in the neighbouring state of Kerala recently, out of which, one 12-year-old boy died, the Karnataka government on Tuesday directed districts bordering that state to strengthen the surveillance and preparedness. 

It said that all those coming from Kerala should be monitored for symptoms like fever, altered mental status, severe weakness, headache, respiratory distress, cough, vomiting, muscle pain, convulsion, diarrhea. 

Meanwhile, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Tuesday said that he had instructed the experts to study the Nipah virus and give suggestions to tackle the disease.

"I have instructed the experts to study in details about the Nipah virus. I have also told them to give suggestions regarding how it will spread, how to tackle it," Bommai said.

A 12-year-old boy died of the Nipah virus infection at Kozhikode in Kerala on September 5. The test results of eight people, including the child's parents and health care workers, who came in close contact with him, returned negative. The Kerala government had put the health departments in four districts -- Kozhikode, neighbouring Kannur, Malappuram and Wayanad -- on high alert.

 "In view of confirmed cases of Nipah virus (NiV) infection reported recently in the neighboring state of Kerala, it is imperative to strengthen the surveillance and preparedness in the larger interest of Public Health in Karnataka also, with special focus in the districts bordering Kerala -- Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Mysuru, Kodagu and Chamarajanagara," the government advisory said. 

Issued by the Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare, Jawaid Akhtar, it gave certain instructions to be implemented by district administrations to ensure the well being of the community, that includes monitoring those coming from Kerala for symptoms. Also, necessary public awareness should be spread among the public on Nipa, it said, adding that a systematic surveillance system is a necessary method to identify clusters of encephalitis cases, resulting in early detection of Nipah outbreaks. 

The advisory said suitable samples have to be collected with all necessary precautions from suspected, probable and contacts and sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, for laboratory confirmation. However, Kerala's health minister Veena George informed news agency ANI that all 24 samples of eight persons sent to the NIV Pune have tested negative for Nipah virus

"All 24 samples of eight persons sent to National Institute of Virology, Pune were found negative (for Nipah virus). We are testing more samples. We have started field surveillance and will begin house-to-house surveillance in containment zones today," she told ANI.

As there is no known treatment or vaccine available, Ribavirin, an antiviral, may have a role in reducing mortality among patients with encephalitis caused by Nipah virus disease, it further said, adding that intensive supportive care with treatment of symptoms is the main approach for managing the infection in people. 

The advisory also instructed district authorities to send the daily reports, even if Nil, in a prescribed format, to the Commissioner, Health and Family Welfare Services, Arogya Soudha, Bengaluru. District Authorities should take all the necessary measures as instructed and as per the local situation, it added. Stating that Human Nipah Virus (NiV) infection is an emerging zoonotic disease, the health department said that in India, two outbreaks in humans were reported from West Bengal and neighboring Bangladesh in 2001 and 2007. 

Further, confirmed cases and deaths were also reported from Kerala during the outbreak in 2018. Large fruit bats of the Pteropus genus are the natural reservoir of Nipah virus, whose cases tend to occur in a cluster or as an outbreak. In general, the case-fatality rate is estimated at 40-75 per cent. However, this rate can vary by outbreak and can be up to 100 per cent, it added.

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News Network
September 10,2021

Davanagere, Sept 10: A local leader of India National Congress, who had gone missing for the past few days, was found dead at the hill in Basavapatna in Channagiri taluk of Karnataka on Friday.

According to police, Zainullah Khan (40) might have been killed but the investigation is still on.

He was also serving as Mayakonda Assembly Constituency Congress Minority Wing Vice President as well as a Bescom contractor.

Superintendent of Police CB Rishyanth visited the spot. Channagiri police registered a case.

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News Network
September 11,2021

Riyadh, Sept 11: The Saudi General Directorate of Passports announced it has started the automatic extension of the validity of residence permits (Iqama) for stranded expatriates outside the Kingdom in addition to extending the validity of visit visas and exit and re-entry visas without fees or charges for all expats until 30/11/2021, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA)reported.

The move comes in implementation of the directives of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.

The decision, which was approved by the Minister of Finance, comes in line with ongoing efforts being made by the Kingdom’s government to deal with the effects and repercussions of COVID-19 pandemic.

It also falls within precautionary measures that guarantee the safety of citizens and residents and contribute to mitigating financial and economic impacts.

The Directorate indicated that the extension will be carried out electronically in cooperation with the National Information Centre without the need to visit the departments of passports. The extension process is as follows:

First: Extending the validity of residence permits as well as exit and re-entry visas for residents who are in countries from which entry is suspended as a result of Coronavirus until 30/11/2021.

Second: Extending the validity of visit visas for visitors who are in the countries from which entry is suspended as a result of the Coronavirus until 30/11/2021.

Currently, the countries facing the travel ban are India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Brazil, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

Last month, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior has issued directives to allow direct entry of fully vaccinated expatriates from countries facing travel ban.

The decision was applied only to those foreigners who have a valid residency permit (iqama) and left the Kingdom on exit and re-entry visa after taking two doses of vaccine against coronavirus from Saudi Arabia.

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