The 40 lakh people who have been left out of the ambit of the final draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on July 30 last in Assam will still get an opportunity to provide fresh sets of documents to present their credentials during the upcoming claims-and-objections process. This is unlike the process adopted so far where the first choice of documents could not be changed.
A report in the The Indian Express quoted the Supreme Court-mandated NRC coordinator, Prateek Hajela, as saying, “If you choose a particular document, or I would rather say, a particular legacy at one time, then during (the past) procedure, you (couldn’t) change that. However, at the time of claims and objections, we will start afresh again and we will allow any fresh document to be submitted completely or partly.”
The report further stated that Hajela’s remarks hold significance given that the Supreme Court has asked the Government to provide by the middle of this month the standard operating procedure for the claims-and-objections process scheduled from August 30 to September 28, 2018.
The Registrar General of India (RGI), Sailesh, in a separate interview to the The Indian Express, said that the 1.5 lakh people whose names figured in the first draft released on December 31, 2017, but were dropped in the final draft will be informed by mail about the cancellation.
This, he said, is aimed at alerting those whose names were dropped. “We want to ensure that the person is informed in a timely manner about his non-inclusion,” the RGI said. Applicants in Assam, over the past three years, submitted documents in two categories: One to prove the presence of their ancestors in the State before 1971 and the other to prove their linkage to the ancestors.
According to Hajela, the 3.29 crore total applications contained 6.6 crore documents, averaging two documents per person. “It’s an unprecedented exercise. It’s a mammoth exercise,” the NRC official said. The data analysis of these applications revealed that all applicants claimed to be descendants of 41 lakh ancestors, and now constitute 68 lakh families. Incidentally, almost 93 per cent of the applications drew from “legacy data”: Either 1951 NRC registers or pre-1971 electoral rolls, said Hajela.
He said the documents furnished had to be verified from respective issuing authorities (like school/universities, land record, Air Force, Army, Railways, etc). During the entire operation, the exercise involved verification from as many as 75,000 issuing authorities across the country. In fact, almost 5.5 lakh applications needed verification from outside Assam.
Sailesh sought to allay fears by clarifying that those left out of the final draft cannot be called “illegal” and should be referred to as “included” or “not included” until they are declared foreigners. “All these people will be given ample time and opportunity at the time of claims and objections. It cannot be a summary hearing and the individual will have to be provided with a couple of hearings. When a notice is issued, we will have to give reasonable time. The person (who is not in the draft) will have to prepare himself and may have to bring some people (for oral testimony),” he said.
The RGI, who is the Census Commissioner, said that those left out of the draft will enjoy “all entitlements and privileges unless they are declared foreigners by a tribunal”. “The person not satisfied with the process of claims and objections can approach the Foreigners’ Tribunal,” he said.
On the deadline for completing the NRC, Sailesh said, “Unless we formulate the modalities for claims and objections, we cannot fix a deadline. The deadline of December 31, 2018, is for administrative purposes. At the stage of claims and objections, they will be given adequate opportunity to produce the documents, add new documents. It is an applicant-based process rather than (of) enumeration.”