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Law provides for corrections through claims and objections, says IAS officer spearheading NRC

The IAS officer Prateek Hajela has been spearheading the mammoth exercise of National Register of Citizens since 2013 when he was appointed the state coordinator.

india Updated: Jul 30, 2018 06:27 IST
Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Prateek Hajela,NRC,Assam
As Assam puts out the final draft of its National Register of Citizens on Monday, 48-year-old Prateek Hajela is the man of the moment.(HT Photo)

As Assam puts out the final draft of its National Register of Citizens on Monday, 48-year-old Prateek Hajela is again the man of the moment. The IAS officer has been spearheading the mammoth exercise since 2013 when he was appointed the state coordinator. His colleagues often talk about how a lot of the software used in the exercise are his brainchild.Sadiq Naqvi spoke to Hajela as he gave the final touches to the NRC. Edited excerpts:

What has been your biggest challenge?

It is an unprecedented exercise that has not happened anywhere in the country. One of the big challenges was that unless people were able to get hold of their pre-1971 documents, it would be very difficult for them to submit their application forms. So we digitised the pre-1971 electoral rolls, including the 1951 NRC, to make them searchable in English, Bangla, Assamese, and to maintain authenticity we had to link the original image of each document.

The next big challenge was to educate the public to fill up their form. Then the next challenge was to ascertain if the parental linkages are correct. For that, I created the family tree.

But people were asked for a family tree after they had submitted the applications?

There is already a provision in law for that… Only thing is how do you implement and that is where ingenuity is involved.

What about the decision to exclude declared foreigners, D-voters and their descendants?

Declared foreigners are excluded as per rules. Similarly, there is an SC order that says D-voters are not to be included, where the SC said undoubtedly these are doubtful voters and their inclusion will depend on decision of the Foreigners Tribunals.

So what happens to their descendants?

It is a logical thing. If the father’s citizenship is under doubt then how can their descendants be included?

But the citizenship law of the country has provisions for citizenship by birth irrespective of the parents’ citizenship? Does the NRC not recognise it?

No it does not. It is not there in the rules.

What happens to people who are left out of the complete draft that comes out on July 30?

It is a draft and the law provides for corrections through claims and objections. So the person who is left out will have the right to file a claim, while any other person may file an objection against any entry that he or she thinks is ineligible.

The NRC has come under criticism of late, especially after you told the court that 1.5 lakh people in the first draft will not be there in the final draft. How did it happen?

As far the 1.5 lakh people are concerned, it is explained in the Supreme Court order. On the question of declared foreigners, it could be that the same person was showing different names in different places.

So there is a possibility that more such cases could crop up?

People are hiding information which they are not supposed to do. They need to declare about the cases but still if they are doing we have to find out the correct information.

First Published: Jul 30, 2018 06:27 IST