The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has detected large-scale anomalies in the updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.
The Supreme Court-monitored NRC exercise was started after bureaucrat Prateek Hajela was appointed the State Coordinator in October 2013. The complete draft of the list of citizens was published in August 2019, excluding 19.06 lakh people out of a total of 3.3 crore applicants.
The CAG report ending March 31, 2020, submitted to the 126-member Assam assembly on December 24, said 215 software utilities were added in a haphazard manner to the core software used for the updating exercise due to the lack of proper planning.
“These were done without following the due process of either software development or selection of vendors through eligibility assessment following a national tendering,” the report said, noting that highly secure and reliable software was required for such an exercise.
The haphazard development of software and utilities for the NRC data capture and correction posed the risk of data tampering without leaving any audit trail. Consequently, the intended objective of preparing a valid and error-free NRC was not met, the CAG report said.
The report pointed out that the project cost for the NRC escalated from ₹288.18 crore to ₹1,602.66 crore due to the time taken to undertake the exercise.
Apart from recommending action the then State Coordinator, the CAG sought penal measures against system integrator Wipro Limited for violation of the Minimum Wages Act as “payment was made to operators at a rate less than the minimum wages”.
The amount of wages paid to the outsourced staff was 45.59-64.27% less than the rate approved by the NRC coordination committee, the CAG report said, adding that the difference of wages allowed undue benefit of ₹155.83 crore to the system integrator and the labour contractor beyond the 10% “reasonable profit margin”.
Former NRC Coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma had filed a first information report with the Assam police’s Vigilance and Anti-Corruption wing alleging corruption and money laundering by Mr Hajela, his predecessor who was transferred to his home State Madhya Pradesh.
The updated NRC included people who could prove their Indian citizenship by being residents or descendants of people living in Assam before March 25, 1971, the cut-off date according to the Assam Accord of August 1985.