Justice for NRC Assam
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National Register of Citizens (NRC) may be an important issue for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, but the updation of the 1951 NRC in Assam has brought only bitter news.

It’s shocking how new developments relating to the massive exercise of identifying illegal migrants in the State under ‘monitoring’ of the Supreme Court continue to surface.

If the trend started with several official complaints lodged against the former State NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela, along with the system integrator (Wipro limited), now it’s time for registering cases in various courts.

Surprisingly, one defamation suit is registered against the 46th Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, now a sitting member of the Rajya Sabha. The former chief justice of the apex court faces the Rs one crore defamation case along with the publisher of his autobiography titled ‘Justice for the Judge: An Autobiography’.

The complainant alleges that Gogoi made many misleading and objectionable comments against him while justifying an ‘unusual’ order to transfer Hajela to Madhya Pradesh on deputation in 2019 (whose three-year term of deputation has ended recently and Hajela is relieved from all assigned responsibilities).

Complainant Aabhijeet Sharma, the original petitioner in the SC for the updation of NRC in Assam, alleged that Gogoi, in his book, termed him as a threat to Hajela.

President of Assam Public Works (APW), an influential non-government organisation of northeast India, Sharma also sought a ban on further publishing, distributing and selling of the book, published by Rupa Publications.

The Kamrup (metro) district court, after hearing the matter recently, issued a notice to Gogoi for his response.

One may remember, Sharma highlighted the massive corruption in the NRC updation process through a press conference in 2017. He specifically mentioned that a large volume of money meant for part-time workers (data entry operators) was syphoned by some corrupt individuals. But shockingly, Sharma was scolded by a SC bench (led by then CJI Gogoi) following Hajela’s complaint before the court. Even a suo moto contempt case was filed against Sharma, who later tendered an unconditional apology, thus resolving the contempt issue.

Days ago, well-known film-maker Luit Kumar Barman sued Hajela along with Wipro and Integrated System & Services (worked as a subcontractor and represented by proprietor Utpal Hazarika) for their roles in Rs 155 crores money laundering during the NRC Assam updation process (May 2014 to October 2019). Introduced himself as a vigilant citizen against corruption, Barman, in his complaint at Kamrup (metropolitan) chief judicial magistrate’s court, cited the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).

The CAG report mentioned the issue of corruption involving a large amount of public money and it recommended penal actions against Hajela and Wipro, an acclaimed IT company of international repute. The complainant narrated that the NRC updation process was initiated with Hajela’s appointment as the State Coordinator. Besides a huge number of government employees, nearly 6000 contractual DEOs were also engaged in the process but the DEOs were denied minimum salaries as per the country’s wages act.

Hajela, without any due process of transparent tendering, gave the task of supplying DEOs and software development to Wipro, which later engaged one sub-contractor (ISS).

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They paid the DEOs only Rs 5,500 to 9,100 per month (per person) during 2015-2019, whereas it was sanctioned Rs 14,500 to 17,500 every month for one DEO by the NRC authority, asserted Barman. He introduced Hitesh Devsarma, the immediate successor of Hajela as NRC State coordinator and APW chief Sharma as witnesses. Both Devsarma and Sharma had lodged separate FIRs against Hajela alleging financial mismanagement as well as intentional inclusion of illegal migrant’s names in the NRC.

Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma assured appropriate actions against those involved in the irregularities and recently the government has referred a case against Hajela to the directorate of economic offence.

The people of Assam can only hope that the issue will be resolved logically and the guilty individuals be punished under the law. They would definitely expect a correct NRC for the future generation and the nation.

Also Read | Assam NRC scam: Talking about Hajela, Wipro, ISS …

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