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Hajela must go only after accounting for NRC expenditure: Assam BJP

Prateek Hajela  

The Assam unit of the BJP has asked the Sarbananda Sonowal government to let civil servant Prateek Hajela go to his home State Madhya Pradesh only after he provided an account of every rupee spent on the exercise to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The Supreme Court on October 18 ordered the inter-cadre transfer of Mr. Hajela, State NRC Coordinator, on deputation for the maximum period permissible under the rules. No reason was cited but it is believed the bureaucrat was under pressure from the BJP and certain organisations for “failing” to provide an error-free NRC.

Threat to life

A threat to his life is also said to be a reason. The apex court had ordered the State government to provide him with adequate security before the publication of the complete NRC draft in July 2018.

“The government must not release Mr. Hajela unless and until he gives a statement of account on the ₹1,600-crore spent on the NRC updating exercise. He ended up toying with a burning issue [of illegal immigrants] in Assam and giving us nothing,” State BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass said.

“We are not happy with the final NRC he came up with. The names of many foreigners are in the list while genuine Indians have been kept out,” Mr. Dass said. His party wanted reverification of documents of all the 3.3 crore applicants, he said.

The BJP and its affiliates, besides some NGOs, had panned the final draft of the Supreme Court-monitored NRC published on August 31. It left out 19.06 lakh names of applicants, which was less than half the 41 crore people rejected after the complete draft was published on July 30, 2018.

The primary reason for their unhappiness was that many non-Muslims figured in the list of NRC-rejects.

Verification process

The NRC verification process started on September 1, 2015, almost two years after Mr. Hajela was appointed the Coordinator. There were allegations of fiscal mismanagement, particularly in the process of digitisation of records and appointment of some 7,000 data entry operators, across 2,500 NRC service centres.

In September, the Labour Commissioner acted on a complaint by a group of data entry operators saying they were being paid less than half the ₹14,500 a month the government had earmarked. A case was subsequently filed against Wipro for executing the NRC exercise without obtaining contract labour licence.

He should have been punished: NGO

Assam Public Works, the NGO whose July 2009 petition in the Supreme Court had set the NRC exercise ball rolling, said Mr. Hajela should have been “punished for presenting an erroneous NRC” rather than being transferred.

“He must be made accountable and not allowed to get away lightly,” the organisation’s Aabhijeet Sarma said.

Senior lawyer Upamanyu Hazarika, also the chief of an anti-infiltration forum, saw in Mr. Hajela’s impending exit the “opening of the door for reverification” of the NRC documents. 


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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 5:49:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/let-hajela-go-only-after-accounting-for-nrc-expenditure-assam-bjp/article29743157.ece

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