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CAA gives citizenship to persecuted people, will not take away anyone’s citizenship: PM Modi

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on January 12, 2020 Published on January 12, 2020

Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes part in the 150th year celebration of the Kolkata Port Trust, on January 12, 2020.   -  Debasish Bhaduri

Why are central schemes floundering in Bengal, asks PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose to speak on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Kolkata on Sunday, even as protests against the Act rocked the city over the weekend. He reiterated that the CAA was aimed at giving citizenship, and not taking it away from anyone.

According to the Prime Minister, the amendments to the Citizenship Act was aimed at fast tracking Indian citizenship to those who have suffered religious persecution in countries like Pakistan. Any person irrespective of his or her religion can seek citizenship of the country as per laid down procedures and if he/she respects the Constitution of India.

Addressing youth at Belur Math, a monastery, and headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission in Howrah district, Modi said: “We are not taking away anyone's citizenship. It is an Act that gives citizenship to persecuted people. A person irrespective of his or her religion, whether he/she believes in God or not, but has faith in the Constitution of India can seek citizenship under already laid down procedures.”

Prime Minister Modi, who is on a two day visit to West Bengal, spent the last night at Belur Math.

Modi clarified that the new legislation “is an amendment (and addition) to an existing Act” and these amendments in no way affect prevailing citizenship provisions/criteria.

To justify the passage of the CAA, PM Modi invoked Mahatma Gandhi. He said, "We only implemented what the great freedom fighters had wished to do. We have done Gandhiji’s bidding.”

He reiterated that it was the job of the government of the day to take care of persecuted minorities and not “leave them to die”.

Congress supporters protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act at Y channel, in Kolkata, on January 12, 2020.

 

Taking a dig at the opposition, without naming anyone, the Prime Minister said: “Some people are creating misconceptions on the CAA for political reasons. A lot of youth in the country are aware but there are some who suffer from the misconceptions. We will have to make them understand.”

Students and urban youth have primarily been leading anti-CAA protests in several parts of the country. In Kolkata, for instance, student wings of political parties like CPI(M), SUCI, Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI(ML) among others, have been at the forefront of these protests.

Despite these protests, the CAA has been notified making clear the Union government’s decision to go ahead with the now controversial legislation.

Dig at Pakistan

During his half an hour long speech at Belur, Modi did bring up Pakistan and the persecution of religious minorities over there.

Citizenship issues, especially looking after persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries, has been a decades old problem that is finally being looked into. Previous governments have only overlooked the issue.

The Prime Minister added that since bringing in the amendments to the CAA, the world has finally started taking note of the atrocities committed by India’s neighbour on its minorities. “It is the result of our initiative that Pakistan has to answer how they treated their minorities in the past 70 years,” Modi said.

No impact on North East

Provisions of the CAA will not have any “adverse impact on the demography and culture” of North Eastern states, the Prime Minister categorically mentioned. “The drafting (of CAA) has taken into consideration the concerns of the North East. In no way will their culture, demography and way of life be affected because of the provisions,” he added.

Incidentally, Assam, was amongst the first to raise concerns over the passage of the legislation. Protests there turned violent in the initial days, before agitators took to peaceful means.

Attacks Mamata

Later on Sunday, the PM Modi took a dig at West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, and the repeated stalling of health and social welfare schemes like the Ayushman Bharat and Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi here in the State. He, however, refrained from naming her.

“Schemes like Ayushman Bharat ans Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi benefit they poor and the farmers. But, I do not know if they will every start here; if at all they will start here,” the PM said at the sesquicentennial celebrations of the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT).

Banerjee, who was supposed to share dais with Modi, skipped the programme after drawing flak from Opposition parties and also in the face of protests from Left-backed students groups. The criticism and protests against her intensified after she met PM Modi on Saturday evening at the Raj Bhavan; and skipped attending a Congress-led all-Opposition party meet on the legislation scheduled to take place in New Delhi tomorrow.

In fact, the Prime Minister made it a point to question the current political dispensation in West Bengal for stalling these social welfare schemes. Apart from political reasons, Modi questioned if issues like “non-availability of cut money” (as these are direct benefit transfers) was stalling their implementation.

“Why are the social welfare schemes not being implemented here? Absence of cut money or because syndicates won’t have a major say in these direct benefit transfers,” the PM questioned, adding that he hoped “good sense” would prevail on policy-makers or Bengal.

The Ayushman Bharat Yojana is a health insurance scheme; while the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi will allow small and marginal farmers to get up to ₹6,000 per year as minimum support income.

Centre’s focus

Meanwhile, the PM announced that KoPT will be renamed after Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. “This port will now be known as Shyama Prasad Mukherjee port. It was unfortunate for the country that after Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and Babasaheb Ambedkar resigned from the then government, their suggestions were not implemented as they should have been,” he said.

Explaining Shyama Prasad Mukherjee’s contribution in industrialising Bengal, Modi reiterated the present NDA government’s focus on coastal connectivity, developing inland waterways, reducing turnaround time and how a whole new “ecosystem” around port-led development was being promoted.

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Published on January 12, 2020
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