Guwahati: With only five days left for deadline, 26 lakh people -- out of the 40 lakh who were left out of the draft National Register of Citizens published on July 30 this year -- have filed for claims and objections for inclusion of names in the citizens' register so far, top sources in the state NRC authority have revealed.
The process of filing claims and objection with regard to the NRC will continue till 5 pm on December 31. A tentative final list will be published by January 2 next year.
With the deadline around the corner, the number of people filing claims and objections has increased threefold in the past 15 days, thanks to the Supreme Court's decision to extend the deadline to December 31, from the earlier December 15, and the efforts of thousands of ground workers from various organisations who have been assisting the people to get their names included in the list of genuine Indian citizens.
Sources in the NRC Seva Kendras (NSKs) across the state now say that the number is expected to cross 30 lakh by December 31. The NSKs are witnessing a manifold rise in the number of people filing claims and objections in the second half of December.
The names of over 40 lakh people did not figure in the draft NRC published on July 30. Looking at the lower number of people filing claims and objctions till mid-December, it was feared that half of these people would not make it due to non-availability of valid documents, among other reasons.
“The main reason for people not filing claims and objections earlier was because of the NRC authority’s non-acceptance of documents issued after August 31, 2015. For example, if a person is giving legally valid land documents of several decades ago but if the extract is issued after the stipulated time, the document is not accepted. Birth certificates retrieved after one year, even though after obtaining required permission from the executive magistrate, were not accepted by the NSKs. As the Supreme Court later ordered the authorities to accept such documents, many genuine people who were earlier left without documents are applying in the nick of time,” said Abdul Kalam Azad, a social scientist and an activist from Assam.
After the SC relaxation, the attitude of the NSKs has also changed, Azad explained. “The NSKs have become more people-friendly after the top court gave such directions. The NSKs have become positive about the whole exercise. They are speeding up the process of processing the application of claims which is resulting in increasing numbers,” he added.
NSK employees second Kalam’s statement. Al Amin, an employee of an NSK in Baghbor circle of Barpeta district, said, “In the past one week, we have been getting at least 150-200 forms a day for filing claims. In November, and even in the first part of December, we used to get 50-75 forms a day. Now, there is a bigger rush of people to our kendras. We are not able to process all the applications we receive on the same day.”
Of the 40 lakh people excluded in the draft NRC, 13.16% are from Barpeta. According to the NSK employee, only 2% people are left to file claims in the district.
In another NSK of Katarihara of Lakhipur circle in Goalpara district, which have 11.82% of the people excluded in the draft NRC, Saddulla Hussain, an employee of the Seva Kendra said that he used to make entries of 30-40 applications of filing of claims a day till the first week of December. “But in the second and third weeks of this month it has risen. I am entering data for about 60-80 forms a day.”
He also said that in the run-up to the panchayat polls in the state, that was held on the first part of December, the candidates were told to make people aware of filing claims in their election campaigns rallies.
“We had requested each of the candidates contesting the polls to at least talk for five minutes about the process of filing claims in every campaign. This has also resulted into the increasing number of filing claims in my circle,” said Hussain.
Student organisations, civil bodies and NGOs are also to be given credit for they have now jumped on the bandwagon to help people to file claims. These organisations have trained school and college students as volunteers and set up help desks in rural districts of Assam.
Citizen for Justice and Peace (CJP), a human rights organisation defending minority rights, freedom of expression, criminal justice and child rights in India, has employed 500 volunteers across the state to assist people in filing claims.
CJP’s Assam convenor Zamser Ali said, “Our volunteers have been putting up help desks in places where 60-70% people are left out of the draft NRC. On November 23, 24 and 25, we got two state holidays and one Sunday together. We utilised this time to the fullest to assist the people with our volunteers. We engaged government employees who got three days' leave and filled up 24,000 forms in Baghmari area of Biswanath district.”
Ali said that the 500 registered volunteers of CJP have trained many youths to volunteer the process. At present, over 1,000 volunteers who are connected with CJP are extending help in places where exclusion is more and literacy rate is less.
“Our volunteers are working day and night. In many places, school students are being trained to assist people. It has left an impact. The process of filing more applications has speed up from early December, but it is reflected later this month because, the NSKs also need time to process the applications” he added.
The CJP also has a helpline for people to assist with filing applications. This helpline with the number 1800 300 250 78 has been operational from October 12. It can take 12 calls in four languages at one go. Through this helpline, the volunteers have assisted over two lakh people from various parts of the state.
Other organisations like the All Assam Minority Students’ Union, All Bodo Minority Students’ Union and Association for Protection of Indian Citizenship Rights have also been active in volunteering in the NRC process. The CPI(M) and Students’ Federation of India have also set up helpdesks in Guwahati’s Birubari are. Moreover, a good number of students from universities of Assam are working closely with the people in rural areas whenever they get a holiday.