The protests against the CAA are just one in reaction to a long list of disturbing legislations and moves that are being tabled and passed in the country. These bills have the power to change the very fabric of our lives - forfeiting our privacy, denying us of our basic rights, and enforcing major changes. These are some of the bills that should worry us as Indians.
1. The Data Protection Bill
At first glance, this bill seeks to protect the privacy of personal data and regulate the processing of 'sensitive' and 'critical' personal data. What this means however, is that the central government has unrestrained access to bypass all privacy safeguards and snoop on any personal information. Such wide-ranging power can be easily abused, and considering the snooping and surveillance allegations made by Whatsapp and Google in recent months, it has already begun.
2. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill
The bill, which passed on August 5th, seeks to provide a mechanism for social, economic and educational empowerment of transgender people. However, it met with massive protests as it requires transgender persons to go through a district magistrate and a district screening committee to get certified as a trans person. A revised certificate can only be obtained if the person undergoes surgery to confirm their gender. There are no provisions for an appeal if the individual is denied a certificate.
3. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill
Crucial amendments were made to the UAPA Act recently, allowing the Centre and states to designate individuals as terrorists and seize their property. This can be done without an FIR, charge sheet, or trial. Opposition members have argued that the amendments are unconstitutional and that they violate an individual’s right to liberty.
4. The Citizenship Amendment Act
This law grants citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists, Jains, and Christians who have entered India fleeing religious persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Migrants who identify themselves with any community other than these won't be eligible for citizenship. That prominently includes Muslims, which is extremely problematic.
5. The National Register Of Citizens
This is a register of all the citizens of India, requiring every person to prove through documentary evidence that they belong to this country. This means ID cards, tax receipts and AADHAAR cards are not enough. You have to prove your ancestry through historical documents. It is an extremely difficult proposition as several people, especially from older generations, have no record of their birth certificate.
6. Setting up detention camps.
Around 1.9 million people in Assam were excluded from the state’s final National Register of Citizens (NRC) list in August. Meanwhile, the construction of Goalpara Detention Camp has already begun. It is designed to hold 3000 people, and is one of 10 planned detention centres. If those who have been left out of the list are not able to prove their citizenship before the deadline ends, they will be taken to the detention centre.
7. The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill
The original 2005 RTI Ac's effectiveness hinged on the independence of the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and its equivalents in the states. However, the amendment allows the Centre to decide the tenure as well as the salary of the CIC and ICs. It would effectively nullify the independence of the state legislatures, and put total power in the Centre in terms of dismissals as well. Opposition parties have termed it the 'RTI Elimination Bill', and have argued that there was no reason given for doing away with statutorily defined tenures. They claim it was steamrolled through in order to give the Centre more power.
All of these moves have had their supporters and their naysayers, but one can't deny that it is highly worrying. These are legislations and changes that will have a far reaching impact on our lives, even if we don't see them now.