February 16, 2020

City planners and activists demand withdrawal of CAA-NPR-NRC

THE National Coalition for Inclusive and Sustainable Urbanisation (NCU), a network of urban planners and activists  the urban realm, issued a statement signed by 149 experts, demanding withdrawal of CAA and stopping the exercise of NPR and NRC. These experts include Romi  Khosla and AGK Krishna Menon-urban planners, Darshini Mahadevia, Mathew Idiculla and Mukta Naik-urban researchers, Harsh Mander, Kavita Reddy, Rajpal and Shaktiman Ghosh -social activists, Sohail Hashmi from heritage conservation, Gautam Bhan-housing rights activist, Dipani Sataria-urban ecologist, Dinesh Abrol- Gurgaon  water forum, Asok Bhattacharya-Mayor Siliguri and Sanjay Chauhan and Rajni former Mayors of Shimla and Dharamshalla respectively.

The NCU has stated that India has been going through tumultuous times. The massive inequity in Indian cities is best highlighted by a recent Oxfam report. Shockingly, just 63 billionaires have more money than the entire budget of the government of India. This disparity is mirrored in asset holdings in cities. The difference between the top 10 per cent and the bottom ten per cent is 50,000 times in Indian cities! This is further accentuated by the huge informality that exists in urban India-93 per cent. This exposes the extreme vulnerability faced by urban population.

These inequities have become especially starker since 2014, because of the NDA government’s anti-people and anti-poor policies, which have imposed untold hardships on the marginalised sections of society, especially dalits, adivasis, women and minorities. The constituent members of the NCU have been at the forefront in trying to combat the adverse consequences of these myopic policies across the length and breadth of the nation. Some of the more visible issues include inaccessible education, denial of housing and other essential public services, illegal evictions under the false pretense of constructing world class cities and through the government’s flagship programmes such as the Smart City Initiative, Swachh Bharat Mission, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation etc. All of these collectively target only certain classes, castes and minority communities. These issues are even more starkly felt in numerous cities in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East, where the NDA’s unconstitutional mandates, norms and repressive practices have further accentuated these problems. These policies cumulatively impinge upon our right to the city, which a recent high court judgment held as a fundamental right.

The NDA’s brazen threat to impose the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register (CAA-NRC-NPR) despite widespread opposition, including from 11 state governments further exacerbates the problems faced by the urban poor.

We at the NCU are deeply concerned that the CAA-NRC-NPR will directly target unorganized sector workers, homeless people, migrant workers, basti dwellers, transgender persons. For example, the enumeration process of the proposed NRC-NPR will adversely impact the 1.77 million homeless people in India. Furthermore, our own surveys in just five states (Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu) reveal that on average, 99 per cent of all homeless people do not have their own birth certificates, which in the context of NRC-NPR-CAA becomes a dangerous proposition. Moreover, 30 per cent of urban homeless population does not have any identity proof. Similarly, there are a number of Nomadic and De-Notified Tribes, as well as migrants driven by rural distress who do not possess and will not be able to furnish the requisite documentation that the NRC-NPR process will undoubtedly expect.

The NCU firmly believes that the burden of proof of citizenship should not fall on citizens but on the State. In other words, the government cannot begin with the assumption that “everyone living in India is an illegal immigrant until proven otherwise”. This is patently unconstitutional and violates the inalienable rights of millions of Indians.

The cost of implementing the NPR and the NRC must also be taken into consideration. The estimated cost of preparing the NRC, based on the experience of Assam will be Rs 55,000 crores. These precious funds should be diverted towards health, employment and education of the most vulnerable inhabitants of the country. The detention camps under construction at a nationwide has an estimated cost of thousands of crore rupees should be stopped and the precious funds should be diverted to the social sector.

In these perilous times, seeing the imminent danger to the urban poor, which includes more than 6.5 crore slum dwellers, 93 per cent of India’s labour force which is in the informal sector, and innumerable other vulnerable groups, it is vital to express solidarity with these groups, and stand steadfastly with them in this time of uncertainty.

Therefore, we as urban practitioners and concerned citizens of India unequivocally reject the CAA-NRC-NPR and extend solidarity with millions of conscientious Indians who are courageously opposing it in various forms.