The social cost of disenfranchisement – By Abusaleh Shariff
The direct budgetary expenditure on preparing the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was Rs.1,221 crore. The indirect damages imposed on the applicants work out to Rs.7,800 crore. Using these figures as a template, it can be estimated that carrying out the exercise across the nation, the National Register of Indian Citizen (NRIC), will require Rs.3,83,874 crore ($53.3 billion). There will be other indirect costs borne by affected households that will have to cope with loss of employment and business income, loss of usual residence, loss of schooling and increased health expenditures. Clearly, the above estimate is an inadequate one.
It is instructive to compare these estimates, such as they are, with budgetary allocations to three crucial Union Ministries. The budgetary allocation for the Human Resource Development Ministry (including the allocation for higher-level education) for the year 2019 is Rs.94,853 crore, which is just about one quarter of the estimated cost of implementing the NRIC across India. Similarly, the budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Health is only Rs.62,398 crore, one-sixth of what an all-India NRIC exercise is estimated to cost.
The cost of the NRIC would be higher than even India’s defence budget for 2019, which was Rs.3.2 lakh crore. This expenditure will not only damage India’s fiscal health but also impact the national gross domestic product (GDP) by about 2 per cent. The most significant impact will be a drastic decline in the earnings and disposable incomes of millions (Assam is an example) who will be excluded from the citizenship list. Such a scenario will derail the Modi government’s five-trillion-dollar-economy project in the near future.…
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