Dissecting Assam NRC for a better understanding

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Dissecting Assam NRC for a better understanding

Nava Thakuria, Assam:

Participating in a debate on satellite television or digital channels
needs some homework to make the deliberations short and clear. Unless
you face an arrogant anchor and unruly participants, the experience in
talk shows normally emerges as intriguing one. It happened to me,
as I had recently participated in a digital media discussion on the
the pertinent issue of the National Register of Citizens  (NRC) in Assam,
where the prime guest was none other than the immediate past State NRC
coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma. The talk show host Dikshit Sharma put
the questions in a clever way so that the issue comes alive and my
the part was just a better interpret Dev Sarma’s version for clarity to the
the valued audience of Time8.

Dev Sarma, recently retired as an Indian Administrative Services
officer, lodged a complaint against his predecessor Prateek Hajela,
another IAS officer- presently in a deputation to Madhya Pradesh,
accusing him and the system integrator (Wipro Limited) of engaging in
corruption and money laundering while updating the 1951 NRC in Assam.
He clarified that the supplementary NRC list, which was released on 31
August 2019 excluding 19,06,657 applicants due to lack of papers, was
asserted by Hajela as the final one (but the same is yet to be
notified by the Registrar General of India). As Hajela’s three-year
deputation term is almost completed, he is scheduled to return back to
Assam by this year.

The issue of the base year for NRC updation in Assam also came to the
discussion as the State had to obey 1971 as prescribed in the Assam
Accord (unlike the national cut-off year of 1951). The people of Assam
are expecting a final verdict on the cut-off year (to identify
foreigners in the State) from the Supreme Court of India. Dev Sarma
was asked about the implications of a verdict favoring 1951 as the
the base year for Assam too, where he stated that it would increase more
work to the responsible officers and employees, but the common people
(except a few) would face no troubles. With stored documents in the
NRC directorate, the issue would be resolved amicably, added Dev

Speaking about the inclusion of thousands of suspected families in the
NRC draft, Dev Sarma claimed that Hajela used a faulty software
technology in the process with no cross-checking facility. The
provision  for checking family legacy data (through family tree
matching) was deliberately designed in such a way that no superior
officers (except Hajela) could go for verification. So it’s a
criminal and anti-national activity asserted Dev Sarma. On another
the occasion, Hajela adopted the policy of DMIT (district magistrate
investigation team) verification, which was not recommended by the
the apex court, but surprisingly he did not face any brickbats from the
then SC chief justice reasons best known to Ranjan Gogoi only.
Assam Public Works (original petitioner in the apex court with the
demand to update the NRC in Assam) filed a number of police complaints
against Hajela and his close aides alleging gross misappropriation of
government funds in the process. Lately, APW chief Aabhijeet Sharma
lodged another complaint against information technology firm Wipro
alleging the misappropriation of public money, where the influential
civil rights group made the NRC directorate also a party. Quoting the
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s interim report, it narrated
in the FIR that massive corruption had taken place in the Rs 1,600
crore exercise with the active role of the concerned top officials.
Dev Sarma, who also submitted an affidavit in the apex court, said
that the accountant general observed that an undue benefit of Rs 155.83
crore was allowed to SI/labor contractor. It 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.
rules, for the expenditure of above Rs five crore, Hajela had to obtain an
approval from the empowered committee, headed by the State Chief
secretary or from the RGI, but he did not do so.

In his formal complaint, Dev Sarma described the anomalies where the
Wipro engaged one sub-contractor for providing data entry operators
(DEOs) without any prior approval from the authority. It was found
that the then State coordinator was aware of the sub-contractors, but
did not intervene. Wipro 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 during the years (2015 to 2019). Shockingly, more
than 6000 DEOs were denied even the least amount as per the country’s
minimum wages act. Some DEOs even came to the streets demanding their
due amounts. They also approached the State labor commissioner for
their dues.
My final assertion was that the DEOs must get their legal dues
irrespective of the fate of NRC, as they have nothing to do with it. A
huge amount of money, meant for them, was grabbed by some individuals
with corrupt practices. Unfortunately three Guwahati-based senior
television journalists have also been named and shamed on social media
as the beneficiaries of NRC scam. Thousands of social media users
participated in the discourse and many urged those  media persons to
clarify their stand, but they have not made any public statements about
the allegation, which is surprising and unusual compared to their
smart & energetic personalities reflected on the television screen.

The author’s(NJ Thakuria) view is expressed under as it is the basis. Any factual verification not verified by IBG NEWS. Please get in touch with the author for further details.

About Post Author

Editor Desk

Antara Tripathy M.Sc., B.Ed. by qualification and bring 15 years of media reporting experience.. Coverred many illustarted events like, G20, ICC,MCCI,British High Commission, Bangladesh etc. She took over from the founder Editor of IBG NEWS Suman Munshi (15/Mar/2012- 09/Aug/2018 and October 2020 to 13 June 2023).
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