Ex-CJI was silent on NRC irregularities: Former Coordinator

Hitesh Dev Sarma claimed 40% of the enlisted names he had checked were ineligible for inclusion

September 05, 2022 06:19 am | Updated 09:22 am IST - GUWAHATI 

The exercise to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was an expensive failure and former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi was silent on the irregularities committed under former State NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela, his successor Hitesh Dev Sarma said.

The apex court, which monitored the NRC exercise, transferred Mr. Hajela, an Assam-Meghalaya cadre IAS officer, to his home State Madhya Pradesh soon after the complete draft list of citizens was published on August 31, 2019. About 19.06 lakh out of the 3.3 crore applicants were left out of the list for lack of proper citizenship documents.

“The family tree verification part of the exercise was faulty. I had checked the documents of 2,300 people after taking charge and found 900 of them were enlisted erroneously, which suggests 40% of the people included are ineligible,” Mr. Sarma, who retired as the NRC Coordinator on July 31, said.

He was speaking at a social awareness programme organised by United Trust of Assam, an NGO on Saturday.

Mr. Sarma blamed his predecessor for all the anomalies, including underpayment of data entry operators engaged in the updating exercise, despite striking a hefty deal with system integrator Wipro.

Aabhijeet Sharma of Assam Public Works, the NGO whose petition in the Supreme Court more than a decade ago led to the updating of NRC, apologised to the people of Assam for facilitating an exercise that “helped foreigners become Indians instead of ejecting them”.

Insisting that 100% re-verification was necessary to save the indigenous people of Assam from being pulverised by “illegal migrants”, he said his organisation would approach the apex court again for an audit of the ₹1,600-crore spent on the NRC updating exercise.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Assam government, too, wants the NRC to be re-verified.

The NRC authority had in May 2021 moved the Supreme Court seeking the re-verification of the updated citizens’ list. The process has since been in a limbo with the 19.06 lakh excluded people yet to receive their rejection slips.

After receiving a rejection slip, an excluded person has to approach a Foreigners’ Tribunal within 120 days to produce documents and prove his or her citizenship. Such a person’s inclusion in the NRC would depend on the tribunal’s verdict and processes thereafter.

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