TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Refugee issue; Citizenship Amendment Bill.
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
‘Biased’ citizenship bill draws flak
Government has introduced a Bill to amend certain provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
About Citizenship Act, 1955
The Citizenship Act, 1955 provides various ways in which citizenship may be acquired. It provides for
- Citizenship by birth,
- By descent,
- By registration,
- By naturalisation and
- By incorporation of territory into India.
In addition, it regulates registration of OCIs (Overseas Citizen of India Cardholders), and their rights. An Overseas Citizen of India is entitled to some benefits such as a multiple-entry, multi-purpose life-long visa to visit India.
- The Bill amends the Act to provide that that the following groups of persons will not be treated as illegal migrants:
- Proposed bill enables – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – who have fled to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh without valid travel documents, or those whose valid documents have expired in recent years, to acquire Indian citizenship by the process of naturalisation.
- Under the Bill, such persons shall not be treated as illegal immigrants for the purpose of the Citizenship Act.
- Citizenship by naturalization (11 years’ requirement will be reduced to six years):
- The Act allows a person to apply for citizenship by naturalisation, if the person meets certain qualifications.
- One of the qualifications is that the person must have resided in India or been in service of the central government for at least 11 years before applying for citizenship.
- Now, the Bill creates an exception for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, with regard to this qualification.
- For these groups of persons, the 11 years’ requirement will be reduced to six years.
- Cancellation of registration of OCIs:
- The Act provides that the central government may cancel registration of OCIs on certain grounds.
- These include:
- If the OCI has registered through fraud, or
- Within five years of registration has been sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more, or
- It becomes necessary in the interest of sovereignty and security of India, etc.
- The Bill adds one more ground for cancelling registration, that is, if the OCI has violated any law that is in force in the country.
Benefits of the amendments
- Allows the above said refugees to acquire Indian citizenship by the process of naturalisation.
- A large number of people who would otherwise be illegal immigrants can now heave a sigh of relief if the Bill goes through as they would be eligible to become citizens of the country.
- The Bill, when passed, would be of immense benefit to the Chakmas and Hajongs of Bangladesh displaced because of the construction of the Kaptai Dam who have been refugees for nearly 65 years.
- Grant citizenship to eligible persons from these communities will help to protect their life and liberty and further prohibit discrimination against them.
Limitations of the Bill: Not inclusive enough
- The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, owes its genesis to the assurance given by the Prime Minister that Hindus from these three countries who have sought asylum in India would be conferred Indian citizenship.
- But since singling out Hindus alone could be discriminatory.
- The Bill has to extend the right to acquire citizenship to other religious minorities living in the three countries as well.
- e., the new citizenship legislation should include refugees from persecuted minorities of all denominations who have made India their home.
Three principles which underlies India’s treatment of refugees:
- Though India has not enacted a national refugee law, the three principles underlying India’s treatment of refugees was spelt out in Parliament by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1959 with reference to Tibetan refugees.
- They include:
- Refugees will be accorded a humane welcome;
- The refugee issue is a bilateral issue; and
- The refugees should return to their homeland once normalcy returns
Why proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is biased?
- The proposed Bill recognises and protects the rights of refugees and represents a welcome change in India’s refugee policy.
- But it would have been appropriate if the Bill had used the term “persecuted minorities” instead of listing out non-Muslim minorities in three countries.
- Such a gesture would also have been in conformity with the spirit of religious and linguistic rights of minorities guaranteed under our Constitution.
- Unfortunately the Bill does not take note of the refugees in India from among the Muslim community who have fled due to persecution and singles them out on the basis of religion, thereby being discriminatory.
Another disappointing feature of the Bill is that it does not provide citizenship to the people of Indian origin from Sri Lanka who fled to Tamil Nadu as refugees following the communal holocaust in July 1983.
They sold all their belongings, came to India as refugees, with the hope of acquiring Indian citizenship and permanently settling down here.
Many of these refugees qualify for Indian citizenship by registration under Article 5 of the Citizenship Act of 1955. However their plea for citizenship has been negated citing a Central government circular that Sri Lankan refugees are not entitled for Indian citizenship.
It would be wise if there are some efforts to withdraw the above-mentioned circular of the Central government.
- Immigrants, even those who are termed illegal, are entitled to equal protection before the law and the various rights that flow from Article 21. This was stressed by the Supreme Court in National Human Rights Commission v. State of Arunachal Pradesh while addressing the rights of Chakma refugees.
- If such immigrants are granted citizenship, the natural progression would mean that they enjoy the benefits of rights guaranteed under Article 19 besides others such as access to the public distribution system, right to participate in the political process, right to secure employment and other rights all of which currently are inaccessible to them.
- The Bill recognises this in its objects and reasons by referring to the denial of opportunities and advantages to such persons. The Bill therefore should not restrict itself to minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh but should include refugees from persecuted minorities of all denominations who have made India their home.
Connecting the dots:
- There is a need to include refugees from persecuted minorities of all denominations who have made India their home in the new citizenship legislation rather than singling out Hindus to acquire Indian citizenship. Do you agree?
- Critically analyze the pros and cons of the newly proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
General Studies 2
- Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.
General Studies 3
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation.
- Science and Technology – developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
Bigger role for International Solar Alliance
- International Solar Alliance (ISA) was jointly announced by PM of India and President of France at UN Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015.
- ISA Headquarter and interim Secretariat is at Gurugram, India.
- Vision: Promotion of solar energy for making solar energy a valuable source of affordable and reliable green and clean energy in member countries (countries between Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn).
Progress so far
- ISA’s International Steering Committee has met thrice- in Paris, Abu Dhabi and New York.
- An Interim Administrative Cell also meets regularly.
- An ISA ministerial-level meeting was held at the UN Headquarters in April 2016.
- Two multi-country work programmes have been launched.
- India has committed Rs. 400 crore.
- Joint declarations have been signed with the UN Development Programme and the World Bank.
- Despite the activities going around about ISA, the public understanding about ISA’s role, scope, and future direction has been limited.
Solar ‘Sunshine’ countries and ISA
- Many countries are aiming for aggressive solar targets which are expected to be supported by regional and international organisations.
- Yet, solar power remains concentrated in just a few countries.
- Till December 2015, Germany, China, Japan, the U.S., and Italy had 70% of the 227 GW of solar PV deployed globally.
- Developing countries, especially African countries are yet to explore their huge solar potential as they are still stuck with low-tech options. Also, the investors consider the markets there as too disaggregated and high risk.
- ISA aims to take solar technology from lab (or rich countries) to streets (developing countries).
- The ISA platform is aiming to bring together countries with rich solar potential + solar innovators, developers, and financiers which will:
- Aggregate demand for solar across member countries.
- Create a global buyers’ market for solar energy which will in turn reduce the prices.
- Facilitate deployment of existing solar technologies at scale.
- Promote collaborative solar R&D and capacity.
Challenges that can be opportunities for rapid expansion of solar energy
Financing the solar projects in many developing countries has high cost. Initiatives have to be taken by ISA to increase the attractiveness of solar potential.
- ISA envisions that collective measures can facilitate the flow of over $1 trillion into solar projects by
- Aggregating demand within countries.
- Standardising asset-structuring across countries.
- Establishing an ecosystem of financial instruments to mitigate some of the investment risks.
- A multi-country foreign exchange hedging facility can be established that can remove higher cost of finance of countries whose currencies are not pegged to internationally traded currencies.
- Investors can reduce their risk exposure by investing in bankable but coordinated portfolios of projects across several markets.
High developer and investor risk
Solar-related plans and policies are often incoherent and thus increase risks for developers and investors.
- There already exist many commercially viable technology applications which need promotion through innovative business models such as fees-for-service for solar home systems, community ownership of assets like solar pumps, etc.
- Decentralised energy businesses can be replicated across many geographies. For example, aggregating demand for rooftop solar projects across countries.
- ISA has already launched a major programme on scaling solar applications in agriculture.
- It has also proposed programme on financing for off-grid energy access.
- ISA can help coordinate between group of countries to follow similar procedures like reverse auctions to allocate solar projects or standardised templates for power purchase agreements. This is likely to draw more confidence from investors and developers can find opportunities to measure operations in other countries.
- Also, as the programmes would be member-driven, there is little risk that the institution would be accused of impugning the sovereignty of members.
Insufficient research and development (R&D) investment in solar
- ISA has to facilitate collaborative, cross-country R&D to avoid getting trapped into existing technologies.
- The major powers are already investing in R&D. But, an initiative by ISA for collaborative research would pool resources in cash and kind. This will also offer more markets to test technologies
- ISA can make announcement of R&D prizes and also encourage advanced commitments from market.
- Such approach can stimulate research in preselected areas like increasing the efficiency of solar panels or reducing the costs of manufacturing in developing countries.
- In addition, ISA is also planning on addressing related market-limiting factors. This is to be done by launching standardised skill training programmes and reducing information asymmetries through a 24×7 knowledge hub.
Stay away from bureaucracy
- ISA has been conceived as an intergovernmental institution. It is not intended to be a typical international bureaucracy.
- The lean Secretariat has the opportunity to leverage networks and create tangible opportunities for manufacturers, developers, financiers and innovators.
- Direct links with private sector and tight budget will hold ISA accountable at ground level
Facilitate cooperation between member countries
- ISA is an organisation of 121 potential member countries.
- It has to oversee that these countries don’t get caught up in conflict over legal form, membership rights and giving precedence to procedure over pragmatism.
- The ethic of ISA is to be a dynamic international organisation of 21st century where action is rewarded and initiatives judged by the effectiveness of their execution.
Promoters please rise
- Many governments and international market players have interest in expanding the goal of renewable energy usage.
- The key backers of ISA have to become public and vocal with ISA’s vision, goals, initiatives, activities and interactive opportunities.
Connecting the dots:
- Discuss how International Solar Alliance can bridge a link between member country governments and developers and investors?
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