Citizenship Tangle

Why the Modi government's plan to make religion a basis for citizenship is a bad idea

A proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act would bar Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan from gaining Indian citizenship.

On Wednesday, when he rose up to speak in Parliament on the abuse of human rights in Kashmir, Trinamool Congress member of parliament Derek O’Brien recounted how his Anglo-Indian family had thrived in India while the branch of the O’Briens in Pakistan did not exist anymore. In this country, O’Brien said, “We can eat what we want, we can pray wherever we want to, we can walk the streets freely."

India’s religious tolerance in its neighbourhood is something that every government had been conscious of before this. India’s twin, Pakistan, enshrines religion as a basis for state citizenship. Non-Muslims cannot be head of state in Pakistan and the government even goes so far as to regulate the religion of oppressed groups such as Ahmadis.

Unfortunately, rather than build on this lead, the Modi government seems keen on actually making India more like Pakistan, enshrining faith at the centre of its statehood. An amendment to the Citizenship Act pushed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh aims to make religion a criteria for Indian citizenship.

Muslims not welcome

The Hindu reported on Friday that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, seeks to change the way an undocumented migrant can obtain Indian citizenship. If the amendment gets passed, members of every major religious community coming into India without legal passports or staying on without valid papers will be entitled to Indian citizenship after six years of residence in India – provided they aren't Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh.

A senior Union minister explained that this was because, “The principle is victimhood. How can a Muslim claim he has been victimised in these countries?”.

As it turns out, Muslims do face a lot of victimisation even in Muslim-majority countries. Shia Muslims, in Pakistan, by any standard, could be said be persecuted. In May 2015, militants blew up a bus containing 43 Ismailis, a sub-sect of Shia Muslim on August 1, Taliban militants gunned down 2 Hazara Shias in Quetta. The killing of Hazaras in Pakistan, an ethnic Shia group, is so gruesome that some commentators have even called it a genocide. Desperate to escape, some Hazara have even looked to Australia for asylum. This when the Hazara have historic links with India, with the British Indian Army even once containing a Hazara regiment.

Ahmadis – a small Muslim sect with roots in the Indian town of Qadian – are even more persecuted and even targeted officially by the Pakistani state. The Pakistani Constitution goes out of its way to officially brand Ahmadis as non-Muslim – even though they think of themselves as followers of Islam – and laws forbid Ahmedis from using Islamic prayers, books and even from using the common Muslim greeting, As-salam alaykum. Pakistan has seen multiple anti-Ahmadi riots since 1947. So widespread is anti-Ahmadi sentiment that appeals to kill them have been made openly on television with no action against the speakers.

Two Nation Theory

The list could go on. But clearly the rationale of “religious persecution” trotted out by the government doesn’t hold: Muslims can also be victims just like Hindus.

It should be noted that this isn’t a one-off event. In September, 2015, the Modi government decided that people from Pakistan and Bangladesh who had sought shelter in India before December 31, 2014, “due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution” would be allowed to stay – again, unless they were Muslim.

Clearly, the process of introducing religion into citizenship is a well-thought one driven by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s majoritarian ideology, which assumes that faith is a determinant in nationality. The founder of Hindutva, Vinayak Savarkar laid out one of the first versions of the Two Nation Theory when he descibed Hindus and Muslims are two distinct nations. This, of course, goes hand in hand with a suspicion of Muslims – a mirror image of the suspicion of Hindus in Pakistan.

In a 2012 interview with journalist Shahid Siddiqui, Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, accused Indian Muslims of having extra-national sympathies. “You people find your mouth watering because you think by combining India, Pakistan and Bangladesh into Akhand Bharat, the country would have a lot of Muslims,” Modi said, in curious reversal of the official history of Partition in India. “All these Muslims would come together and use Indian Muslims to create tensions within India. This would be your dream too.”

What has ensured a difference with Pakistan is that India has kept its law making from being influenced by some of the more extreme right-wing ideologies. But if prime minister Modi’s views, that Indian Muslims will “come together” with Pakistani or Afghan Muslims, is now enshrined in its citizenship laws, then that difference might be a short lived one.

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Getting the best from collaborations

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There are enough examples of hospitals that have gained significantly by partnering with or investing in such ventures. For example, the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas actively invests in tech startups to offer better care to its patients. One such startup produces sensors smaller than a grain of sand, that can be embedded in pills to alert caregivers if a medication has been taken or not. Another app delivers care givers at customers’ door step for check-ups. Providence St Joseph’s Health, that has medical centres across the U.S., has invested in a range of startups that address different patient needs – from patient feedback and wearable monitoring devices to remote video interpretation and surgical blood loss monitoring. UNC Hospital in North Carolina uses a change management platform developed by a startup in order to improve patient experience at its Emergency and Dermatology departments. The platform essentially comes with a friendly and non-intrusive way to gather patient feedback.

When intrapreneurship can lead to patient centric innovation

Hospitals can also encourage a culture of intrapreneurship within the organization. According to Meena Ganesh, this would mean building a ‘listening organization’ because as she says, listening and being open to new ideas leads to innovation. Santosh Desai, MD& CEO - Future Brands Ltd, who was also part of the panel discussion, feels that most innovations are a result of looking at “large cultural shifts, outside the frame of narrow business”. So hospitals will need to encourage enterprising professionals in the organization to observe behavior trends as part of the ideation process. Also, as Dr Ram Narain, Executive Director, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, points out, they will need to tell the employees who have the potential to drive innovative initiatives, “Do not fail, but if you fail, we still back you.” Innovative companies such as Google actively follow this practice, allowing employees to pick projects they are passionate about and work on them to deliver fresh solutions.

Realizing the need to encourage new ideas among employees to enhance patient experience, many healthcare enterprises are instituting innovative strategies. Henry Ford System, for example, began a system of rewarding great employee ideas. One internal contest was around clinical applications for wearable technology. The incentive was particularly attractive – a cash prize of $ 10,000 to the winners. Not surprisingly, the employees came up with some very innovative ideas that included: a system to record mobility of acute care patients through wearable trackers, health reminder system for elderly patients and mobile game interface with activity trackers to encourage children towards exercising. The employees admitted later that the exercise was so interesting that they would have participated in it even without a cash prize incentive.

Another example is Penn Medicine in Philadelphia which launched an ‘innovation tournament’ across the organization as part of its efforts to improve patient care. Participants worked with professors from Wharton Business School to prepare for the ideas challenge. More than 1,750 ideas were submitted by 1,400 participants, out of which 10 were selected. The focus was on getting ideas around the front end and some of the submitted ideas included:

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  • Space for emotional privacy: An exclusive and friendly space for individuals and families to mourn the loss of dear ones in private.
  • Online patient organizer: A web based app that helps first time patients prepare better for their appointment by providing check lists for documents, medicines, etc to be carried and giving information regarding the hospital navigation, the consulting doctor etc.
  • Help for non-English speakers: Iconography cards to help non-English speaking patients express themselves and seek help in case of emergencies or other situations.

As Arlen Meyers, MD, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, says in a report, although many good ideas come from the front line, physicians must also be encouraged to think innovatively about patient experience. An academic study also builds a strong case to encourage intrapreneurship among nurses. Given they comprise a large part of the front-line staff for healthcare delivery, nurses should also be given the freedom to create and design innovative systems for improving patient experience.

According to a Harvard Business Review article quoted in a university study, employees who have the potential to be intrapreneurs, show some marked characteristics. These include a sense of ownership, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to look at the big picture along with the desire, and ideas, to improve it. But trust and support of the management is essential to bringing out and taking the ideas forward.

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This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.