The Registrar General of India (RGI) has turned down a request of the Assam government to continue financial support for completing pending work of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) beyond March 31 this year.
Taking strong exception to the "inordinate delay" incompletion of the entire exercise, the office of the RGI in a letter suggested to the state government to terminate the services of "surplus staff" and hand over the workload to government staff, besides shift the NRC office to a government building.
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In a letter on March 4, the Assam government had sought an additional Rs 3.22 crore per month beyond March 31 for completion of the pending NRC activities in addition to the allocated Rs 1,602.66 crore for the entire project.
RGI Joint Director Jaspal Singh said in a letter dated March 23 to the Assam government secretary (Home and Political) S R Bhuyan, "All the activities of NRC updation were to be completed within the approved cost of the scheme by 31.03.2021 and there is no further provision of funds for the expenditure made under the scheme beyond 31.03.2021.
"The time and cost for completing the pending work and winding up the project has also not been explained in the proposal. The requirement of software developed for various NRC activities may be assessed and the renewal of software which are not required may be discontinued immediately." The letter also said that the requirement of Rs 3.22 crore per month beyond March 31, 2021 "appears to be too high".
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) had approved the revised estimates of Rs 1,602.66 crore up to December 31, 2019 with a condition that the amount would not be revised further before winding up the entire process by March 31 this year. While recommending optimum utilisation of financial and human resources, the letter pointed out that surplus staff should be terminated, wherever possible, to cut down on costs.
It may be mentioned that the NRC State Coordinator was repeatedly requested to complete the pending work as per the decision taken in NRC Coordination Committee meetings,approved guidelines and SOPs, and the directions of the Supreme Court. The final NRC, released on August 31, 2019, had found a total of 31,121,004 persons eligible for inclusion in the registry, leaving out 1,906,657 persons.
"The process of issuing rejection slips to those excluded from NRC is yet to start. The NRC Coordination Committee in its meeting held on 30.01.2020 had directed that the pending work relating to issue of rejection slips should be completed on a mission mode," Singh said. The letter also highlighted that the NRC State Coordinator in a meeting on July 2 last year had informed thatrejection slips would be issued to NRC excludees by the end of December 2020.
"The NRC Coordination Committee has been insisting on, since its meeting held on 30th January, 2020 and 2nd July,2020, to complete the activities within the limit of approved budget of Rs 1,6022.66 crore only," it stressed. Singh further told the Assam government that the NRC Data Centre should be shifted to the state IT department at the earliest to save on costs.
Before publishing the final NRC, the Centre had extended the time limit for filing of appeals in Foreigners' Tribunals, by the excluded persons, from 60 days to 120 days,and necessary amendments were made.
However, there was an inordinate delay and no tentative schedule for issuing the rejection slips was announced. A rejection slip will mention the cause for the exclusion of a person's name from the updated citizenship register.