The Assam government has reiterated its stand on the results of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), demanding that a verification be carried out for at least 10-20 percent of the people included in the list.
Senior minister Chandramohan Potowary reportedly told the Assembly, “We had given an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying that there should be re-verification of 20% included names in the districts bordering Bangladesh and 10% in the rest of the districts,” adding, “We need a re-verification because people of Assam want a correct NRC.”
The disappointment with the NRC became evident shortly after the final list was published on August 31, 2019. At that time Himanta Biswa Sarma, a powerful minister in the Assam state government had alleged that names of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants had been included in the NRC. He had demanded that a reverification of 20 percent of the names be carried out in border districts, and 10 percent names be verified in other districts. Several local groups like All Assam Students Union (AASU) had also backed this demand.
Heads rolled and the first official to be shown the door was Prateek Hajela, who was replaced as the State coordinator of NRC by Hitesh Dev Sarma amidst much controversy. Assam Public Works, the NGO that is at the center of the NRC case in the Supreme Court demanded a complete reverification of the list. But the apex court rejected the plea. It now appears that the state government is exploring the option for moving court with a fresh plea for reverification.
However, it is noteworthy that a form of reverification to the extent of reassessing the inclusion of siblings and family members of declared foreigners did take place which led to the publication of the Additional Exclusion list on June 26, 2019 excluding over 1 lakh people. Moreover, during the claims and objections process, documents of people whose citizenship was under the scanner were scrutinised again.
The Assam government’s refusal to accept the NRC thus puts in limbo not only the 19 lakh people excluded from the final NRC, but also the 3.11 crore people who were included, rendering an expensive and tedious exercise moot. It is also a colossal waste of public funds. While official estimates place the expenditure on the NRC exercise at approximately Rs 1,600 crores, the figure leaps past the Rs 11,000 crore mark if we take into account expenditure that will be incurred by people to defend their citizenship; lawyer’s fee, transportation, documentation etc.
How we arrived at this figure
As per advocates and people related to Foreigners’ Tribunals (FT), each and every person excluded from NRC must pay an amount of at least Rs 30,000/- to advocates to fight their cases in the FT. An additional Rs 30,000/- is spent on travel, communication and arranging for witnesses to appear before FTs. In this way, at least Rs 60,000/- is spent by every person on FT cases to prove them to be Indian. In this way, for 19,06,657 people excluded from NRC, the expenditure comes to at least Rs 57,19,97,10,000/- as advocate’s fees and Rs 57.19,97,10,000/- for expenditure on communication and travel for FT appearance for victims, their family members and witnesses. It means Rs 11,439,94,20,000/- will be the minimum expenditure to be borne by the 19,06,657 people excluded from the final NRC.
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