NRC data will be restored soon: Centre, Assam govt
The database includes the details of 31.12 million people who were identified as verified Indian citizens living in Assam, and 1.9 million who were rejected.Updated: Feb 13, 2020 03:55 IST
Officials in the Union and Assam governments assured people on Wednesday that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) data was safe and will be restored soon, days after it disappeared from the public internet with an IT contractor withdrawing its services over unpaid dues.
The database includes the details of 31.12 million people who were identified as verified Indian citizens living in Assam, and 1.9 million who were rejected. It is crucial for people in the latter category who rely on the data to obtain rejection certificates spelling out why they were left out, and enables them to file appeals.
The database is offline since IT major Wipro, which hosted the information on its servers, pulled its services after not being paid for more than three months. The contract lapsed in October 2019.
“The IT services contract was not renewed by the authorities upon its expiry in October 2019. However, as a gesture of goodwill, Wipro continued to pay the hosting service fee until January-end, 2020. Wipro is willing to continue providing these services if the IT services agreement is renewed by the authorities,” the Bengaluru-headquartered company said in a statement on Wednesday.
According to officials, the responsibility of ensuring the contract was renewed rested at multiple levels in the government. “The lapse can be apportioned between state government, the NRC coordinator, and to some extent even the Centre,” said a senior government official aware of developments, asking not to be named. The contract appeared to be for making the database available online by hosting it on Wipro’s cloud servers. Large databases are routinely deployed on the “cloud” – a network of servers run by IT services companies that helps take care of heavy visitor load.
“We are in touch with Wipro to renew the contract and the same will be done within the next few days. Once that happens the data will appear online again and applicants can view their details,” an official in the Assam government said.
The database is primarily saved on the Wipro server but there is a copy on a government server, according to a second senior official in New Delhi.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal “made a strong case about the state government being kept in the dark from the data and how it has been stored”, the first senior official added.
A high-powered government committee on the NRC issue headed by the Assam chief secretary discussed the renewal and cleared roughly ₹70 crore for the contract in the last week of January, the official added. “The delay happened when previous NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela, who was transferred from the post to Madhya Pradesh following a Supreme Court directive, failed to renew the contract,” this person added.
Hajela did not respond to text messages seeking comments on the issue.
It was unclear what stage the contract renewal process was in.
According to the senior official based in Delhi, Wipro issued several communications over the pending dues.
The Congress said it has suspicions the problem could be the result of some “mala fide act”.
“It is a mystery as to why the online data should vanish all of a sudden, especially as the appeals process has not even started,” leader of the opposition in the state assembly, Debabrata Saikia wrote to NRC state coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Sarma said the data was offline, but refuted the allegation of any “malafide” intent in it.
The final NRC was published in August, 2019 and put up at http://www.nrcassam.nic.in.
“The project was commissioned by the Registrar General of India and the Ministry of Home Affairs, and was monitored by the Honourable Supreme Court of India. As an IT services provider, Wipro was tasked with providing the technical architecture and technology solutions for the project,” Wipro said in its Wednesday’s statement.
The NRC exercise had been monitored by the SC and the coordinator who was in charge when the final list was released last year – Prateek Hajela – reported to the judges. Members of Assam’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have on several occasions targeted Hajela and sought a greater role for the state administration in the process.
The NRC was updated in 2019 for the first time after 1951 in Assam to identify illegal citizens, following a decades-long agitation against outsiders. The final NRC has names of individuals who have been living in Assam before March 24, 1971, or can show evidence to ancestors who were residents before this date