A Delhi-based rights group has estimated that people excluded from Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) had to shell out more than an estimated ₹7,500 crore for hearings related to the citizenship document.
The Rights and Risks Analysis Group’s report titled ‘The Economic Cost of Draft NRC: Poor Made Extremely Poor’said many such people have been “so economically crippled” that might not be able to challenge their exclusion before the Foreigners’ Tribunals.
More than a week ago, the Centre had said that the government would provide legal aid to the NRC-excluded, besides extending the time for them to appeal in the Foreigners’ Tribunals against exclusion from 60 to 120 days.
The rights group had conducted a survey in the Baksa, Goalpara and Kamrup districts of Assam from July 17-20. The 62 respondents of the survey claimed to have spent a total of ₹11,82,000 or an average ₹19,065 per person on attending hearings before the NRC authorities.
“This works out to ₹7,836 crore spent by 41,10,169 people excluded from the draft NRC,” the group’s director Suhas Chakma said. The figure, however, was arrived at by including 395,688 people who did not re-apply after their exclusion on July 30, 2018.
The average spending on the NRC hearing effectively reduced the excluded people’s per capita income to ₹48,555 from the ₹67,620, as per the Ministry of Finance’s estimation for Assam in 2018, he said.
The 41,10,169 excluded people constitute about 13% of Assam’s total population of 31 million. Most of the excluded are below the poverty line, the study said.
Many had to mortgage agricultural lands, sell their cattle/livestock, agricultural products and other income-generating assets, besides taking loans to meet the expenses for the NRC hearings, the study said.
The expenses for every person excluded from the NRC increased manifold because multiple hearings at NRC centres, at times very far away, entailed moving with the entire family, even along with blood relatives otherwise included in the draft list, the study said.
“A majority of those who shall be excluded from the final NRC to be published on August 31 have already been so economically crippled that might not be able to afford ₹10,00,00-₹15,00,00 to challenge the exclusion before the Foreigners’ Tribunals, which are quasi-judicial bodies and require representation by lawyers,” Mr. Chakma said.
“If they do not have the resources to pursue their cases in the FTs, the question of challenging before the High Court and the Supreme Court does not arise,” he added.