FIR lodged against ex-NRC coordinator, Assam officials

Prateek Hajela and data entry operators engaged in updating of National Register of Citizens accused of anti-national activities

May 21, 2022 02:51 am | Updated 10:14 am IST - GUWAHATI

Former NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela

Former NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela | Photo Credit: AFP


The office of the State Coordinator for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam has lodged a First Information Report (FIR) with the Criminal Investigation Department against former NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela, some officers and data entry operators for “antinational activities” during the exercise to update the citizens’ list.

The exercise to update the NRC of 1951 was begun in 2014 under the supervision of the Supreme Court. Of the 3.3-crore people who applied for inclusion in the NRC, 19.06 lakh were left out for lack of adequate citizenship papers when the draft list was published on August 31, 2019.

In his May 19 complaint, State NRC Coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma cited several loopholes in the process of verifying documents to match the family tree of the applicants. He said some genuine documents might have been used to make false linkage claims with a person of pre-1971 era.

1985 Assam Accord

The exercise was based on the Assam Accord of 1985, which prescribes March 24, 1971, the eve of the Bangladesh liberation war, as the cut-off date for detecting, detaining and deporting non-citizens, usually referred to as “illegal immigrants”.

“While office verification was being done, it was noticed that the documents submitted fraudulently could not be detected merely through office and field verification, while some imposters tried to establish linkage with some genuine citizen through these fraudulently acquired documents,” the FIR read.

“The family tree matching (FTM) was introduced as a remedy to this. In the FTM process, all the offspring of a ‘legacy person’ from whose lineage is claimed, were asked to submit their family details, which were then compared and matched through software with the other family trees submitted by the descendants of the same legacy person,” it said.

“Thus, there appears a mismatch as and when there is an attempt to claim false lineage since elaborate checking can easily expose the names of those persons who are not biological descendants of the legacy person,” the FIR read.

Mr. Sarma said the mechanism was designed to be such that the family trees of the genuine offspring match with each other and the family trees of imposters, who attempt to assume descendance through pre-1971 legacy documents as their ancestors, do not match with that of the genuine offspring.

“The FTM would have been the ultimate foolproof method of NRC verification had it been executed with due diligence. However, evidence now points that due diligence was not exercised while conducting this process,” the FIR read.

Two phases

The FTM was done in two phases — eForm3 (family tree matches) and linkage verification result renew system (LVRRS) where the verifying officers were asked to match the manual family trees submitted by the descendants of the same legacy person in hard copies with the help of the computer-generated family tree in the laptops provided to them.

In the eForm3 verification, matches in various manual family trees against the legacy data code (generated for each legacy person) concerned were to be marked ‘Y’ for inclusion in the NRC or ‘N’ for exclusion.

“…the verifying officers were to upload their findings to the cloud which eventually went to the database of the NRC. But the software was prepared in such a manner that as soon as the data is uploaded, the data vanishes from the laptop screen of the verification officer and becomes no longer available for any quality check by supervisory officers in order to ascertain whether the matching of family trees was done properly or not,” the FIR said.

Mr. Sarma said this was confirmed by the information technology vendor that prepared the software.

The vendor, he added, also confirmed that there was no option in the software to make any correction of probable mistakes done by the officers of the NSKs (NRC Seva Kendras), “thus making the process ineffective and vitiating the entire purpose of the software”.

‘Quality checks avoided’

Mr. Hajela, the complaint said, did not order any quality check. “Rather, the software was so prepared to avoid any quality checks giving the verifying officers of doubtful integrity a free hand to upload wrong results to fulfil their vested interest,” it said.

It is thus suspected that despite the mandate of the Supreme Court for an error-free NRC, Mr. Hajela may have “intentionally avoided the mandatory quality check by ordering the use of a software which prevented quality check and facilitated the entry of names of ineligible persons into the NRC which can be seen as an anti-national act affecting the national security, theFIR read.

Mr. Sarma cited the example of three NSKs — Baghbar and Kalgachia in Barpeta district and Dalgaon in Darrang district — where sample checks were done on the results of FTM for some legacy data codes. A total of 39,29,703 legacy data codes were used across Assam during the updating exercise.

The sample check revealed that the names of 975 people were erroneously included in the NRC through wrong uploading of date from the 2,346 legacy data codes verified by the three NSKs, Mr. Sarma said.

A majority of the residents of Baghbar, Kalgachia and Dalgaon are Bengali-speaking Muslims, often regarded as “Bangladeshis” in Assam.

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