The Delhi-based Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) says its survey in Baksa, Goalpara and Kamrup (Rural) districts of Assam from 17-20 July 2019, has revealed that those excluded from the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) spent about Rs 7,836 crores for the NRC hearings.
“Many have been so economically crippled that they will not be able to challenge their exclusion before the Foreigners’ Tribunals,” said the report titled ‘The Economic Cost of Draft NRC: Poor made Extremely Poor’.
As per the survey, 62 respondents were able to quantify the expenditure incurred for attending hearings before the NRC authorities and they claimed to have spent a total of Rs 11,82,000 or an average of Rs 19,065 per person.
“If Rs 19,065 has been spent by each person excluded from the NRC on an average, it implies that a total of Rs 78,360,371,985 spent by 41,10,169 persons excluded from the draft NRC at present,” stated Suhas Chakma, director of RRAG.
“The per capita income of Assam during 2018 was Rs 67,620 as per the Ministry of Finance, Government of India,” Chakma said.
“If Rs 19,065 has been spent for the NRC hearings by each excluded person, it implies that their per capita income had been effectively reduced to Rs 48,555 or about US$ 700 which is at par with Central African Republic, the civil war ridden country with the lowest per capita income in the world, just above Somalia,” Chakma further added.
The World Bank in its report, “Assam: Poverty, Growth & Inequality” of June 20, 2017 stated that Assam not only lagged behind most Indian states in economic growth but ‘poverty reduction has been the slowest in Assam after 2005 and that the incidence of poverty in Assam remained higher than the national average, with poverty levels being very high in some parts of the State’.
The NRC has made 41,10,169 excluded persons, who constitute about 13 per cent of the 31 million population of the State and are overwhelmingly below the poverty line, extremely poor.
Many had to mortgage agricultural lands, sell their cattle/livestock and agricultural products like betel nuts/ paddy/ betel nut gardens/jackfruit garden, sell their only means of income like auto rickshaw while many took loans to meet the expenses for the NRC hearings.
Explaining the reasons for the high expenses, the report stated, “Every person excluded from the draft NRC had to spend more money because when a person from the family is excluded from the draft NRC, it is not only the excluded person who has to attend the NRC hearings but all the adult members of the family or blood relatives who are otherwise included in the draft NRC have to accompany the excluded member as witnesses before the NRC authorities.
The expenses multiply because the excluded person has to be present himself or herself along with witnesses for multiple times before the NRC Seva Kendra.
Further, many excluded persons received notices from the NRC Seva Kendra in another district to establish the legacy data of their parents or grandparents in that place.
As majority of those who shall be excluded from the final NRC to be published on August 31 next have already been so economically crippled that they shall not able to meet the costs between Rs 100,000 to Rs 150,000 to challenge the exclusion before the Foreigners’ Tribunals which are quasi-judicial bodies and require representation by lawyers.
“If they do not have the capacity to defend before the FTs, the question of challenging before the High Court and the Supreme Court does not arise,” Chakma said.
The report stated that hundreds of thousands of people are staring at extreme poverty, hunger and imprisonment in the detention centres as each person shall have to file appeal before the designated Foreigners’ Tribunal constituted under the Foreigners’ (Tribunals) Order, 1964 following publication of the NRC or be treated as foreigner and face the draconian consequences.