After a number of FIRs against IAS officer Prateek Hajela for his alleged involvement with National Register of Citizens (NRC) updation scam in Assam, the much talked about bureaucrat now faces a case registered in the Kamrup (metro) chief judicial magistrate’s court (CR/155/2023, 12 April 2023).

The former State coordinator of NRC, along with Wipro Limited and Integrated System and Services (ISS) represented by proprietor Utpal Hazarika, have been sued by well-known Assamese businessman and film-maker Luit Kumar Barman for their role in laundering money to the tune of Rs 155 crore during the Assam NRC updation process between May 2014 and October 2019.

The complainant cited the recently released report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on social, economic and general sectors for the fiscal year ending 31 March 2020, where the corruption issue involving a large amount of public money was mentioned.

The CAG also recommended penal actions against Hajela and the system integrator (Wipro, an Indian IT company of international repute). Besides himself, Barman in his complaint introduced Hitesh Devsarma, IAS (retired), immediate successor of Hajela as NRC State coordinator, and Aabhijeet Sarma, president of Assam Public Works, original petitioner in the apex court for NRC updation in Assam as witnesses.

Both Devsarma and Sarma had lodged separate FIRs against Hajela in the last few months, alleging financial mismanagement as well as intentional inclusion of the names of illegal migrants in the NRC. In two complaints, Devsarma alleged a massive corruption by his predecessor along with some officials and an outsider named Pralay Seal.

The CAG report clearly stated that due to the lack of proper planning, a haphazard addition of over 200 software utilities to the primary one was done. The statutory audit body claimed that the intended objective of preparing an error-free NRC in Assam was not fulfilled, even though the government had to spend Rs 1,579 crore and around 50,000 government servants were used in the process. Unfortunately, the NRC irregularity issue also involves the SC, as a bench comprising the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi used to ‘monitor’ the particular exercise.

Confusions surfaced when around 6,000 temporary workers were paid lower than the prescribed monthly salaries. It’s alleged that Hajela, without any due process of transparent tendering, delivered the task of supplying DEOs to Wipro and it illegally engaged one sub-contractor (ISS, owned and managed by Hazarika). Thus, an undue benefit to the tune of Rs 155.83 crore was given to the system integrator.

The matter was discussed in both mainstream media and digital outlets a few months back highlighting the State government’s daily minimum wages for skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers in various sectors. Responsible individuals, while commenting over the matter, pointed out three television scribes as also being beneficiaries of money laundering in the NRC updation process. APW president Sarma, who lodged police complaints against Wipro (besides Hajela), also sent a letter to Azim Premji, chairperson of Wipro Technologies, informing him about the company’s “unholy” role in the NRC updation process. Lately, he urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene on the matter so that the guilty individuals are punished under the law.

Pointing out that a large amount of money came from foreign countries to influence the system for incorporating thousands of Bangladeshi Muslim families in the list, he also argued that the Enforcement Department, Central Bureau of Investigation and National Investigation Agency should separately probe into the NRC scam.

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Today, a large section of conscious Assamese individuals, civil society and political party representatives express serious concern over the development as they are not ready to accept the present fate of NRC. But they expect the culprits to be punished irrespective of their social standings and hope for a genuine NRC in Assam. State chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has assured appropriate action against those involved in the irregularities and recently announced that the State government had already referred the case against Hajela to the directorate of economic offence. Hope the law takes its own course and all the scamsters (including those television journalists) are punished by law in the coming days.

Views expressed are personal and do not reflect EastMojo’s stand on the issue.

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