23th December 2019 : The Hindu Editorials Notes for UPSC IAS Exam : Mains Sure Shot
Question – In the midst of the ongoing controversy, explain National Population Register (NPR) and the issues around it.(250 words)
Context – The news regarding NPR.
What is NPR?
- Simple put NPR is a list of list of “usual ‘residents’ of the country”, while NRC is a list of ‘citizens’ of the country.
- The concept becomes clear if we understand the difference between citizen and resident.
- According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, a “usual resident of the country” is one who has been residing in a local area for at least the last six months, or intends to stay in a particular location for the next six months.
- It is mandatory for every “usual resident of India” to register in the NPR.
- It would record even a foreigner staying in a locality for more than six months.
- It will be conducted in conjunction with the first phase of the census i.e. the house listing phase of the Census, by the Office of the Registrar General of India (RGI) under the Home Ministry for Census 2021. Only Assam will not be included, given the recently completed NRC.
- The NPR exercise is conducted at the local, sub-district, district, state and national levels.
- The final enumeration will begin in April 2020 and end in September 2020.
- The NPR is also amongst a host of identity databases such as Aadhaar, voter card, passport and more. Later the government plans to combine all these into one card.
Why in controversy?
- It comes in the backdrop of the NRC excluding 19 lakh people in Assam. With the government insisting that the NRC would be implemented across the country, the NPR has raised anxieties around the idea of citizenship in the country. Even as a debate continues on Aadhaar and privacy, the NPR intends to collect a much larger amount of personal data on residents of India.
What is the legal provision of NPR?
- The NPR is being prepared under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. It is mandatory for every “usual resident of India” to register in the NPR.
Does NPR lead to NRC/NRIC?
- Section 14A was inserted in the Citizenship Act, 1955, in 2004, providing for the compulsory registration of every citizen of India and the issue of a “national identity card” to him or her. It also said the Central government may maintain a “National Register of Indian Citizens”.
- The Registrar General India shall act as the “National Registration Authority” (and will function as the Registrar General of Citizen Registration). Incidentally, the Registrar General is also the country’s Census Commissioner.
- So, it seems that the NPR is the first step towards establishing the NRIC.
- The idea of conducting a nationwide NRC would only happen on the basis of the upcoming NPR. After a list of residents is created, a nationwide NRC could go about verifying the citizens from that list.
Is it a new idea?
- The idea actually dates back to the UPA regime and was put in motion by then Home Minister P Chidambaram in 2009. In fact, at that time it had clashed with Aadhaar (UIDAI) over which project would be best suited for transferring government benefits to citizens. The Home Ministry had then pushed the idea of the NPR being a better vehicle because it connected every NPR-recorded resident to a household through the Census.
- The data for the NPR were first collected in 2010 along with the house listing phase of Census 2011. In 2015, this data was further updated by conducting a door-to-door survey.
- However, with the current government picking out Aadhaar as the key vehicle for transfer of government benefits in 2016 and putting its weight behind it, the NPR took a backseat. Through a notification on August 3 by the RGI, however, the idea has now been revived. The exercise to update the 2015 NPR with additional data has begun and will be completed in 2020. Digitization of the updated information has been completed.
Is there any link between NPR and Aadhar?
- Better targeting and delivery of benefits and services under the government was one of the early objectives of the NPR. During the early days of the NPR enrolment, under the United Progressive Alliance regime, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) scheme for issuance of Aadhaar numbers was also concurrently on. There was a conflict between the Union Home Ministry, which administers the NPR, and UIDAI, leaving the impression that there was duplication of work, as both involved gathering personal particulars, including biometric data.
- Ultimately, they agreed that both databases will exist with different objectives, and that each will use the other’s biometric data. Those already enrolled for Aadhaar need not give their biometric details again during NPR. At the same time, data captured for NPR would be sent to UIDAI for “de-duplication”. In case of discrepancy between Aadhaar and NPR data, the latter would prevail. The present regime decided to update the NPR originally created after the 2011 Census.
What kind of data will NPR collect?
- The NPR will collect both demographic data and biometric data. There are 15 different categories of demographic data, ranging from name and place of birth to education and occupation, that the RGI is supposed collect in the NPR. For biometric data it will depend on Aadhaar, for which it will seek Aadhaar details of the residents.
- Apart from this, in a test run going on across the country, the RGI is seeking details of mobile number, Aadhaar, PAN card, Driving License, Voter ID card and passport (in case the resident is Indian). It is also working to update the Civil Registration System of birth and death certificates.
- In the 2010 exercise, the RGI had collected only demographic details. In 2015, it updated the data further with the mobile, Aadhaar and ration card numbers of residents. In the 2020 exercise, it has dropped the ration card number but added other categories.
- According to Home Ministry sources, while registering with the NPR is mandatory, furnishing of additional data such as PAN, Aadhaar, driving license and voter ID is
- While there are concerns around privacy, the government position on collection of so much data is twofold. The first is the assertion that every country must have a comprehensive identity database of its residents with relevant demographic details. It will help the government formulate its policies better and also aid national security.
- The second, largely to justify the collection of data such as driving licence, voter ID and PAN numbers, is that it will will only ease the life of those residing in India by cutting red tape and paperwork.
- It will also streamline data of residents across various platforms. “It is common to find different date of birth of a person on different government documents. NPR will help eliminate that. With NPR data, residents will not have to furnish various proofs of age, address and other details in official work. It would also eliminate duplication in voter lists.
- The prime concern is privacy. According to officials NPR information is private and confidential, meaning it will not be shared with third parties. There is as yet no clarity on the mechanism for protection of this vast amount of data.
- Also remarks by the Home Minister that the CAA would be followed by the NRC has given rise to fears that when people are excluded from the final citizenship register, the CAA may help non-Muslims take the CAA route to apply for citizenship, and leave Muslims with no option.
- The government needs to bring in more clarity on the issue and address the above-mentioned concerns.
Explain the current crisis and its implications before examining the role of the WTO’s appellate authority in the settlement of international trade disputes.(250 words)
- The weakening of the World Trade Organization Appellate Body.
- The Appellate Body was set up in 1995 as a “safety valve” against erroneous panel reports in return for the members agreeing to adopt reports using the “reverse consensus” rule in lieu of the “positive consensus” rule.
- Under the erstwhile positive consensus rule, reports issued by panels composed to hear disputes under GATT could be adopted only if each of the contracting states favoured its adoption. This effectively handed a veto to the losing state.
- However, under the reverse consensus rule, the report would be automatically adopted, unless each member objected to the adoption of a report. To eliminate the likelihood of erroneous panel reports, the membership proposed the establishment of an Appellate Body, and the adoption of the report was postponed till after such appeal was adjudicated by the Appellate Body.
- Due to the retirement of two of the remaining three members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body on December 10, and a veto by the United States on fresh appointments, the World Trade Organization Appellate Body has been rendered dysfunctional.
- The weakening of the Appellate Body has struck a blow to the rule of law in the realm of world trade.
- The fall of the World Trade Organization Appellate Body is an opportunity to rectify issues with the present system.
- The consequences of the Appellate Body’s fall are overstated for a number of reasons given below:
Return to GATT:
- This effectively marks a return to the dispute settlement system under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which, on the whole, proved successful in resolving disputes.
- Though it hands states an opportunity to appeal an adverse panel ruling and effectively indefinitely delay its adoption, an interesting fact is that a remarkable 71% of panel reports were adopted using the positive consensus rule.
- Even where panel reports were not adopted by states they served as a basis for the parties to “bilaterally” resolve their disputes in a mutually satisfactory manner. In a vastly changed global economic landscape, the re-emphasis on diplomatic solutions in lieu of judicialized solutions to resolve inter-state trade disputes may be worth trying.
Trade remedy matters:
- Most of the disputes at the WTO concern rules that are actually “self-enforcing”, with the Appellate Body only policing its enforcement by domestic authorities.
- The majority of the disputes at the WTO concern trade remedy matters. In such matters, if a state violates the rules, for example, those concerning the dumping of goods or grant of subsidies, affected states can without recourse to the WTO, adopt countermeasures such as the imposition of anti-dumping and countervailing duties.
- The dispute resolution mechanism primarily aims to police the adoption of such countermeasures, namely whether they were warranted and otherwise imposed consistently with the rules.
- It is generally believed that the mechanism is geared to address “over-enforcement” rather than “under-enforcement” of WTO rules.
- While the fall of the Appellate Body may see the adoption of more unilateral sanctions by states, possibly leading to increased trade wars, it will not render the WTO rules unenforceable.
- The threat of reciprocal sanctions may, in fact, serve to encourage states to remain compliant with the rules even in the absence of a functional Appellate Body at the helm of the dispute mechanism.
- Many countries have conceived “alternative” strategies to overcome difficulties arising out of the absence of a functioning Appellate Body.
- States such as Indonesia and Vietnam have, through a no appeal pact, agreed in advance not to appeal the ruling of the panel in the dispute between them, effectively waiving their right of appeal.
- The European Union (EU), Norway and Canada have agreed on an interim appeal system for resolving any disputes through arbitration using Article 25 of the dispute settlement understanding in a process mirroring that of the Appellate Body with former Appellate Body members appointed as arbitrators.
- Although the overall effectiveness of such alternative strategies to overcome the demise of the WTO Appellate Body is uncertain, they do represent good faith efforts by some members at resolving future trade disputes.
- Although the fall of the WTO Appellate Body represents a turbulent period in the history of trade disputes adjudication, it by no means spells the end of the WTO.
- It presents an opportunity to the members to rethink and “iron out some of the creases” with the present system.
Back to Basic
About Dispute Settlement of the World Trade Organization
- WTO is an international body that also deals in Dispute Settlements.
- The member country will approach the WTO’s dispute settlement body when a country fails to comply with WTO rules.
- All the members are encouraged to settle the disputes through consultation or a panel if the consultation fails.
- The constituted panel will circulate the verdict of the dispute settlement amongst WTO members who can decide to reject the ruling.
- If the ruling is approved, the member country that violated the rules must change rules in line with the WTO Agreement.
- In the case of failure to do so, the complaining country and the violating country may determine a mutually-acceptable compensation, failing which, the complaining country may retaliate suitably.