In a damning indictment of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) authority’s data privacy maintenance methods, a document containing district wise percentage of people excluded from the NRC, information that was to be submitted by the NRC State Coordinator to the Supreme Court in a sealed envelop on or before August 25, has now been leaked to the press.
Advocate Upamanyu Hazarika used this data as an annexure to his memorandum submitted to the NRC State Coordinator and the Registrar General of India demanding an investigation into how names of ‘Declared Foreigners’ and illegal immigrants had allegedly made it into the NRC. Speaking to media persons on Sunday, August 26, Hazarika said, “Owing to flaws in verification process, large number of declared foreigners by tribunal has made it to the NRC.” He added, “Against a state average of 11.59% exclusion of applicants from NRC, border districts have exclusion rates which are far below the state average.” Hazarika also released the 168 page memorandum titled Representation on discrepancies and infirmities in the NRC process that also includes the controversial annexure, thus making this hitherto confidential data public!
But, the bigger burning question is that how did a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, who is also the Chief Convener of the Prabhajan Virodhi Manch (PVM), a forum against infiltration allegedly backed by the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS), get access to this data?
Earlier this month the Supreme Court had directed the NRC State Coordinator to submit a district wise percentage of people excluded from the NRC. This data was to be submitted in a sealed envelop on August 25 and the case was adjourned till August 28. But on August 26, two days before the date of the next hearing in the case, advocate Hazarika was able to access this data.
Moreover, other documents annexed with the memorandum contain a lot of other personal information of several people. This includes their Application Receipt Number (ARN) for NRC (something even kept out of the purview of RTI), their Legacy Data Code, their full names, names of their parents and spouses. All this can be easily used for identity theft and other white collar crimes! The district wise data may be viewed here:
Meanwhile, the Claims and Objections (C&O) process, the last hope for over 40 lakh people excluded from the NRC, is hitting one snag after another.
Grounds for Exclusion
People can proceed with the C&O process only after learning the grounds for exclusion. However, information about the grounds for exclusion is not readily available at the Nagrik Seva Kendras (NSK) where people had originally registered for the NRC. Earlier the NRC State Coordinator had informed the SC that every person dropped from the NRC final draft will be supplied a prescribed format to determine the grounds for exclusion, following which they will be able to take appropriate measures for submitting their claim applications. This was to begin from August 7 and go on till August 28. Any person whose name has been dropped from the final draft NRC will able apply in the prescribed format and in turn be supplied in writing the grounds for exclusion.
However, the date was deferred by some NSK authorities repeatedly by oral order. First the date was deferred by NRC Authority to August 10 and then it was informed to general public that the prescribed format will be supplied from August 17. When these people appeared before NSKs on that date they were asked to come after August 20. Later on the date was changed to August 24 by some NSKs. But after that date these NSK centers finally informed some people that they are short staffed and therefore, will not be able to give such written answers. In some cases the competent authority involved in the process of updating NRC, are allegedly informing general public that their names have been dropped from the draft NRC for minor reasons, so, they don’t need written explanation of exclusion… that they can submit their Claim Applications without knowing the grounds for dropping of their names!
Biplab Sarkar a young businessman of Patiladaha in Bongaigaon District said, “My wife’s name was dropped from the final draft NRC. I went to the NSK at Patiladaha Bazaar several times and was still not given the prescribed format!” He says that there are about 200 people who could not apply to know the grounds for their exclusion in the Patiladaha Bazaar area. “One Block Level Officer (BLO) also said that the LRCR have informed that there is no need to submit such applications and having the grounds in written format,” said Sarkar.
The situation is the same in Alukhuna and Hapachara NSK centres in Bongaigaon district. The No-3 NSK center of Bijni Town under Chirang District is showing worst condition. The LRCR of that NSK says that they don’t have enough manpower to submit such answers. So, everybody will submit the claim applications they might submit it without knowing the grounds. A local teacher (name withheld on request) whose wife’s name has been dropped from the final draft NRC said that, “I am a teacher. I can’t complain against them as after making complains, my colleagues working in that NRC will be punished. But, it is troublesome for me without knowing the grounds how can I submit my claim Application? Before filling my claim form I must have the reasons, and as per requirement I will have to submit the Claim Application.”
This does not bode well for a process that is hailed as highly scientific and is being conducted under the watchful eye of the Supreme Court.