FIR lodged against former Assam NRC coordinator
By N.J. Thakuria
Guwahati: Another first information report (FIR) has been lodged
against the former State coordinator of the National Register of Citizens
(NRC) and the system integrator, sub-contractors with other persons
alleging corruption and money laundering while updating the NRC in
Assam that began in 2014 under supervision of the Supreme Court of
The petitioner Hitesh Dev Sarma, present NRC State coordinator, has
filed the case against Prateek Hajela, an IAS officer currently posted
in his home State of Madhya Pradesh, in the State vigilance &
anti-corruption department on 13 June 2022. Dev Sarma, also an IAS
officer, claims in the complaint that a huge corruption and money
laundering suspectedly took place during the tenure of Hajela in the
process of NRC updation.
For conducting the updation of NRC program, the system integrator
(WIPRO) was given the task of supplying data entry operators (DEOs).
The system integrator was not permitted to subcontract any activities
related to system design and development, deployment and enhancement
of NRC software solution, data centre operation, etc. However, it
engaged one sub-contractor for providing data entry operators without
any prior approval from the concerned authority.
‘From office record, it was found that the then State coordinator was
aware of the fact that a sub-contractor was being used to provide
DEOs’ though he did not officially approve the particular proposal.
The system integrator was paid Rupees 14,500 to 17,500 per month per
DEO by the NRC authority, but ‘the DEOs got only Rs 5,500 to 9,100
per month’ only during the years (2015 to 2019). Dev Sarma in his
complaint wrote that the DEOs were denied the minimum wage as per the
country’s Minimum Wages Act.
The State Accountant General in a provisional audit report observed
that ‘the difference of margin ranged from 45.59 to 64.27 percent was
exorbitant and audit assessed that undue benefit of Rs 155.83 crore
was allowed to SI/labour contractor after allowing 10 percent
reasonable profit margin to the contractor’, added the complaint.
Narrating about the undue benefit to the tune of Rs 155.83 crore, Dev
Sarma asserted that it’s a huge amount and it is reasonable to suspect
that kickbacks and money laundering must have occurred in the process.
He also mentioned that during his investigation it came to light that
one Proloy Seal worked as a middleman in the whole process.
“He (Proloy Seal) was neither an employee of the office of the State
coordinator nor was he a contractor engaged by the office. But his
presence was always seen in the office. It is suspected that he was
the key person in managing all the kickbacks and money laundering. A
detailed investigation into the transactions, accounts/balance sheets
of the persons involved is likely to prove corruption and money
laundering as suspected,” stated in the FIR.
The provisional audit report also identified an ‘avoidable expenditure
to the tune of Rs 10.73 crore’ in connection with the engagement of
third-party monitoring consultants. As per the amended delegation of
financial power rules, for the expenditure of more than Rs 5 crore,
the then State coordinator should have obtained an approval from the
empowered committee, headed by the chief secretary, or from the
Registrar General of India.
But the then State coordinator engaged the consultants without taking
approval from the concerned authority, added it. Citing the same audit
report, where it observed that ‘entire expenditure of Rs 10.73 crore
made against the engagement of consultants was unjustified and
avoidable which resulted extra burden to the government exchequer and
undue benefit to the SI to that extent’, Dev Sarma claimed that a
large volume of government money was siphoned off in a fraudulent
Mentionable is that Dev Sarma, earlier lodged a complaint with the
criminal investigation department of Assam Police against his
predecessor Hajela for deceitfully including names of suspected
individuals (read Bangladeshi nationals) in the NRC. He termed it as
criminal and anti-national activities where Hajela deliberately used
the software designed to avoid quality checks in the NRC updating
exercise for Assam. The supplementary NRC list, which was released on
31 August 2019 excluded 19,06,657 applicants because of lack of
adequate citizenship papers.