To understand the import of the first year of the re-elected Narendra Modi government, one needs to go back in time to 1950. On 16 January 1950, Ayodhya resident Gopal Singh Visharad filed a suit before the civil judge at Faizabad. Gopal Singh wanted to practice his faith and offer prayers unhindered at the birth place of Lord Ram. Another significant development came 10 days later on 26 January 1950. As India was adopting a new constitution, a presidential order was issued that limited the applicability of the Constitution of India to the state of Jammu and Kashmir through Article 370. A few months later, on 8 April 1950, Jawaharlal Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan—the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan—signed a pact that resolved to protect religious minorities in their respective countries. While India lived up to its promise, our neighbour did not.
It took us 70 years to resolve these issues and the ministry of home affairs under the leadership of the Prime Minister Modi has played an important role in solving them.
Resolving long pending issues: Article 370 was anti-women, anti-dalit, anti-tribal and homophobic and needed to be abolished. Several important acts such as the Prevention of Child Marriage Act could not be applied to the erstwhile state of J&K. The Indian Parliament has set right these wrongs. Further, the creation of Ladakh as a separate Union Territory has been a long-standing demand that will propel the aspirations of the people of that region.
The Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA) aims to fast-track the citizenship process for six persecuted minorities from the theocratic states of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The safety of the minorities has been a festering wound since Partition, and the CAA exemplifies India’s historical legacy of providing a dignified life to these persecuted minorities.
This government supported a quick legal resolution so that the construction of a grand temple at the birth place of Lord Ram in Ayodhya could commence. A government that does not feel threatened by vetoes and narrow vote bank politics can afford to take a consistent stand without employing delaying tactics. The Supreme Court judgement has vindicated our long-held position.
The commitment to resolve long-pending issues in the North-East saw measures such as the Bodo Peace Accord and the permanent settlement for the Bru refugees through a tripartite Memorandum of Settlement amongst the Union government, government of Tripura and the National Liberation Front of Tripura. This marked the end of insurgency operations in the region and has spelled a new dawn that would thrust the entire North-East area on the high road to development.
Rearming law enforcement: It is important that law enforcement agencies are given a free hand to bring those involved in crimes against the nation to justice. The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act now provides for the designation of ‘individuals’ as terrorists. The orchestrated violence after the passing of the CAA clearly showed the need for an act that identifies and punishes the terror value chain—from those conspiring and funding the violence to those executing these acts of terror. At the same time, the amendments to the NIA Act allows the agency to prosecute offences committed outside the territory of India. These offences include human trafficking, counterfeit currency or bank notes, manufacture or sale of prohibited arms and cyber-terrorism.
Response to covid-19 and natural disasters: India’s lockdown and its enforcement has been one of the most structured exercises globally. The lockdown saved lives and its gradual easing aims to protect livelihoods. During the lockdown, the government’s goal was to alleviate the hardships of the poor and vulnerable by providing free food grain through the public distribution system and by providing cash assistance through Direct Benefit Transfers. The lockdown saw the Union and state governments come together in charting a unified course. This calibrated approach saw the timely easing of the lockdown and a coordinated attempt at restarting economic activity.
India has also taken big strides in disaster management, owing to many policy initiatives, early warning capabilities and advanced preparations that minimized the loss of human lives. Be it adopting a concerted and a proactive approach to mitigate the damage caused during cyclones Fani, Vayu, Maha, Bulbul to the latest Amphan or the decision to treat covid-19 disease as a “notified disaster", these demonstrate the presence of a disaster-resilient infrastructure tuned to save lives.
The way forward: The following years present us both opportunities and challenges. Our state disaster management centres are being equipped with advanced technologies to perform epidemic response activities. The entire census exercise is being transformed from a ‘Pen-Paper Census’ to a ‘Digital Census’. To address issues of identification and exclusion of beneficiaries, a unified “living database" of beneficiaries using data from the National Population Register is being evaluated. Discussions to geo-tag all houses and create a uniform addressing system—“One Nation, One Address"—are being considered.
Citizen-safety is paramount and women safety continues to be an area of focus. Safe city projects using the Nirbhaya funds will be extended to more cities. The existing digital infrastructure created in our smart cities will be leveraged for police command and control centres.
The first year was spent fixing the past. This has now given us the resolve to embrace the future and turn the challenges that lie ahead into opportunities that can be harnessed.
The author is the Union minister of state for home affairs