Question: What can you do with Rs 5,100 crore?
Answer: a) 5,100 school buildings; b) 510 hospitals; c) 510 km of a four-lane highway; d) 5,10,000 new jobs.
However, in Assam, we are about to spend that amount of money to know just the names of Bangladeshis living in the state.
Are you shocked and angry at me for questioning the very root of infiltration issue? Yes, you should be because I am too, with myself.
In an order dated May 10, the Supreme Court effectively ended the drama over detention and deportation of the foreigners as it ruled that no Bangladeshi could be kept in detention centres permanently. They must be released after three years and allowed to live in India with some natural conditions.
Issuing a landmark order having far-reaching impact on a petition initiated by human rights activist Harsh Mander, the SC allowed the conditional release with some financial surety and periodical visits to police station.
That means all the names of the illegal Bangladeshi settlers that are going to come out after the humongous operation of the NRC will walk free on our soil after three years of detention with tax payer’s money taking care of their detention. They will continue to live the same way as they have been always.
After 40 years of fighting the illegal infiltration issue, we all have been obsessed with the NRC and believe that it is the best thing to have happened on the infiltration front.
But as we are about to get the final figure of the NRC on July 31 and then go to the next level judicial exercise at the cost of Rs 5,100 crore only to know the names of Bangladeshis living illegally and then to be released — I am asking now myself — am I the biggest idiot or an optimist of highest order?
I think I am both.
As the date of getting NRC’s final figure getting closer, none of us knows what to do with it. Everybody believed the Bangladeshi issue was only for slogans and nobody thought a day would come when we would have a definitive figure.
I am from a confused generation who grew up dreaming of a Bangladeshi-free Assam only to realise in their mid-life that it is I who is paying from my hard-earned money to do an enormous exercise which no one cares as long as it remains a milking cow.
I never imagined that AASU would file lakhs of objections against suspected Bangladeshis only to stay away from the complaint process making us a laughing stock before the whole world.
When a nervous chief secretary of Assam last month (April 8, 2019) told Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi that Assam was planning to set up 1,000 tribunals to detect the foreigners post the publication of final NRC the Supreme Court was taken aback.
“Do you know what you are saying?”, the chief justice asked.
A thousand tribunals mean 1,000 judges and an average of 25 lawyers per court mean 25,000 lawyers.
“Which good advocate would leave his practice and come for a three-year term as a tribunal judge?” Justice Gogoi wondered.
Those who were in the courtroom quickly realised the gravity of the Assam chief secretary’s statement as he was proposing a judicial system of an industrial size to handle 20- to 30-odd lakh names expected to be out of the NRC.
Observing that a 1,000 more tribunals would be required to deal with the tide, the chief secretary said that the state had already proposed Rs 900-crore budget for setting up these tribunals.
Now here is the full reconstruction of Assam government’s plan and the apparent implications.
• Total no of names expected outside NRC (read complaints): 25 lakh
• Release of final NRC: July 31, 2019
• Foreigners Tribunals planned: 1,000
• Average complaints per tribunal: 2,500
• No of complaints per day per tribunal (@20 minutes per case): 12
• Total no of days needed to handle 1 round of complainants: 210 days/7 months
• Total no of rounds till judgment: 5
• Total time needed: 5 rounds x 7 months = 35 months
• Additional time (for the last man on the queue): 7 months
• Mopping up: 5 months
• Total time needed: 48 months.
Before going to the expense part, these statistics clearly shows that the Assam government will need around 3-4 years to complete the legal scrutiny of 25 -30 lakh in the Foreigners’ Tribunals.
Now coming to the expenses part, here are some fantastic statistics, which will be even more exciting readings.
• Per month/per tribunal: Rs 7.5 lakh
• No of months the tribunals are going to run: 48 months
• Total expenses: Rs 3,600 crore
• NRC cost: Rs 1,500 crore
• Total cost of Bangladeshi identification: Rs 5,100 crore
So the big question is: Why on earth are we spending Rs 5,100 crore of tax payer’s money only to know some names who are Bangladeshis only to be released after three years of detention?
Now for a moment, let us accept the expenses and turn our attention to the logistics that will be needed from August 1 when the NRC will be out.
• Judges: 1,000
• Lawyers (@100 cases per lawyer): 25,000
• Court clerk/steno/4th grade: 6,000
• Total no of people required: 32,000
• Legal fee @Rs 10,000 per case: Rs 2,500 crore
If we look from the employment sector it looks and sounds pretty good but by spending Rs 5,100 crore, is this also not the fact that we could have generated 5,10,000 permanent jobs?
Be it politics, media or judiciary it is easy to make a career out of illegal infiltration issue. However, when reality hits, nobody has an answer. It only proves Assamese as a racist are either greatest idiots of humankind or optimist of the highest order.
Assam has never been more confused about Bangladeshis than now.
Every one of us knows that NRC is going to give us a list.
However, none of us know what we will do with that as deportation is out of question; it is also illegal after three years.
Perhaps, the only answer is to identify them and give them work permits after cutting their basic right of vote, land and government jobs.
(The author is a senior journalist and writer. Views expressed are his own)