Amid the urgency to publish the list of citizens in Assam on 30 July, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) Secretariat has also begun the task of creating a common database of citizens, declared foreign nationals and those in the middle category whose fate hangs in balance, in a development aimed at streamlining the process of identifying illegal migrants in the state.
The exercise involves amassing data from the Election Commission, Assam Border Police Organisation and the NRC at one place and subsequently digitising and uploading them on a website which can be accessed by these departments. Judgments passed by the Foreigners’ Tribunals on the D or doubtful voters would also be fed into the system.
"A common database is being created with the objective to avoid confusion and overlapping. All concerned departments are currently sharing their data on the subject," said LS Changsan, commissioner and secretary in the state home department.
Although beyond the mandate laid down by the Supreme Court, the NRC Secretariat volunteered to execute the project which was approved last year in September at a high level meeting in Guwahati. The secretariat had acquired the technical expertise following the update of the citizens’ register which began in 2015.
Informed sources revealed that the failure of the Election Commission and the Assam Border Police Organisation to digitise their data completely was the primary reason for the project which is being monitored by the chief secretary of the Assam government.
The development comes close on the heels of a spate of media reports alleging the non-existence of a uniform procedure and discrimination in the identification of illegal migrants in Assam.
As a result, as some reports highlighted, there has been lack of coordination between the NRC, the border police and the Election Commission, fuelling controversy and debate over the accuracy of the ongoing process of drawing up a list of citizens in the state.
Cases have also surfaced about persons who have been unable to enlist their names in the electoral rolls even after they were given a clean chit by the Foreigners’ Tribunals. Such names have cropped up across many communities, and not restricted only to the Bengali speaking groups that migrated from Bangladesh.
Many officials were of the view that a centralised database ought to have been created before the exercise of drawing up a list of citizens in Assam. “This further proves the lack of proper planning and coordination among the departments. Everything was done hurriedly only after the intervention of the Supreme Court in the matter,” an official said.
The project gathered steam in December last year after the Gauhati High Court ordered the chief secretary to ensure coordination between the different departments so that the issue of identifying illegal migrants could be efficiently handled.
“Once completed, the centralised database will streamline the whole process. Now for instance, if the Foreigners’ Tribunal passes a judgment declaring somebody as a foreigner, it will be flashed across all the districts. Similarly, if a person is declared as a genuine citizen, then the same will be go across all concerned agencies," explained NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela. He, however, declined to give a timeframe for the completion of the project since the NRC Secretariat is completely occupied with compiling the final draft of the NRC.
After the declaration of the final draft on 30 July, another long drawn process of entertaining claims and objections would begin which could take months to verify. The central database is expected to be completed ahead of the declaration of the final list after a few months. The coordinator informed that the final list of citizens in Assam will take into account the data from other departments as well.
Updated Date: Jul 30, 2018 08:15 AM