Humour

A Modest Proposal for Simplifying the NPR and NRC

It is time to end the mischief of jihadists, terrorists, tukde-tukde gang members and like-minded riff-raff.

There has been a lot of nonsense going on about the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the recent past. This article is intended to correct a number of misperceptions on the subject, to restore a measure of sanity to a debate that seems to have gone completely off the rails, and to offer a modest suggestion toward getting things back on track.

The first thing that needs to be noted is that the objectives of the NPR and of the NRC are wholly benign. The second thing that requires strong assertion is that the one has nothing to do with the other. If a contrary point of view has nevertheless been gaining currency, then this is entirely attributable to the mischief of jihadists, terrorists, tukde-tukde gang members and like-minded riff-raff.

These elements have gone out of their way to draw attention to the new query in the proposed NPR questionnaire on the respondent’s parents’ country of birth. Not content with this, the jihadists etc. have also objected to information sought on the respondent’s Aadhaar number. The terrorists have omitted to mention that no respondent who has not acquired an Adhaar identity is required to furnish it; s/he merely has to admit s/he does not have one.

The ‘lobby’ has further clouded the issue by invoking a great deal of irrelevant comment on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh; on Sri Lanka and Myanmar: on non-Islamic religious groups not having been the only ones to have suffered religious persecution; and on Hazaras and Ahmadis and Rohingyas.

All this is designed to sow suspicion and antagonism in the minds of the people. Not to mention, above all, confusion. The need of the hour (to coin a phrase) is to make things simple and transparent, so that the objectives of the NPR and the NRC can be revealed not only to be harmless and innocuous, but also noble and nationalistic.

With this in mind, one would like to suggest that the NPR and NRC projects can be completed in the course of the next couple of years with the help of just seven rounds of questionnaires, with each questionnaire containing exactly and only one question. Each round can be executed with a budget of just Rs. 4,000 crore, entailing a total outlay of just Rs. 28,000 crore for all seven rounds, to be financed by a new slew of Goods and Services taxes.

This should be seen as a stimulus package even though the economy is in fine shape with, at worst, a few supply-side issues needing attention, as experts (or often a single expert) in the subjects of economics, jihad, terror and riff-raff have been repeatedly pointing out.

Here is the simple 7-stage questionnaire envisaged in this modest proposal:

Round 1
What are you?
(a) Hindu
(b) Sikh
(c) Buddhist
(d) Jain
(e) Parsi
(f) Christian
(g) None of the above

Round 2
What are you?
(a) Hindu
(b) Sikh
(c) Buddhist
(d) Jain
(e) Parsi
(f) None of the above

Round 3
What are you?
(a) Hindu
(b) Sikh
(c) Buddhist
(d) Jain
(e) None of the above

Round 4
What are you?
(a) Hindu
(b) Sikh
(c) Buddhist
(d) None of the above

Round 5
What are you?
(a) Hindu
(b) Sikh
(c) None of the above

Round 6
What are you?
(a) Hindu
(b) None of the above

Round 7
What are you?
(a) Proper Hindu
(b) None of the above

Respondents answering ‘none of the above’ in any round will be excluded from consideration in the succeeding round.

This way, Muslims, Adivasis, atheists and fence-sitters will have been accounted for in Round 1; Christians in Round 2; Parsis in Round 3; Jains in Round 4; Buddhists in Round 5; Sikhs in Round 6; and Scheduled Caste Hindus and Urban-Naxal Hindus in Round 7.

The list at the end of Round 7 will be the National Register of Citizens.

All the others that will have been filtered out in Rounds 1 through 7 can be offered a properly democratic choice between detention centres (the construction of which will contribute further to the fiscal stimulus), deportation, and summary execution.

This modest proposal is simple, undemanding, and easy to grasp, and it should allay the fears and anxieties of all citizens, while also ensuring, in the most expansive and inclusive manner, that not one person in this great Nation will have been exempted from the most serious and conscientious consideration imaginable.

I have done as Jonathan Swift did before me. I have, that is, ‘… humbly propose(d) my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection. ‘

No doubt he did it a good deal better, from the unfair advantage of being Jonathan Swift, whereas the present writer must remain only S. Subramanian.

The author is an economist, independent researcher, former National Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research, and a retired Professor of the Madras Institute of Development Studies.