Amidst a raging debate over the exclusion of 40 lakh people from the final draft of the NRC, the country’s top census official today said no Indian will be left out of the final list of Assam’s citizenship on account of “technicalities” and the authorities were alive to the concerns of those left out. Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India Sailesh told PTI in an interview that a “lack of information and knowledge” about the application process for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) could have led to the omission of names from the second and final draft that was published on July 30.
“These things are a matter of concern for us also and we would like to ensure that no Indian citizen is left out purely on technicalities. There may be some cases, where, due to lack of information and empowerment, certain documentation has gone missing from a person, but if that person is a genuine Indian citizen, he should not worry. “We will have to ensure that a genuine person gets the required documentation,” Sailesh said, when asked about reports that the names of some members of certain families and some prominent people were missing from the draft NRC.
The 1985-batch Assam cadre IAS officer said they were “alive” to these issues. “We are sensitive. Even if there is a minor error in the submission of certain people, a course correction is available. “Sometimes, non-empowerment and lack of information of the process also lead to it (exclusion of names). The authorities will leave no stone unturned for proper diligence when these claims come up,” he said.
Sailesh added that during the claims and objections period, beginning August 30, the key priorities of the NRC authorities would be giving due opportunity to those who have grievances, providing assistance to the needy or uneducated people and launching an intensive awareness campaign on social, print and electronic media, describing the entire process. “We will ensure that no genuine Indian faces any inconvenience. Inclusion of their name in the final NRC is our priority,” he said.
Asked about reports that people who possessed Aadhaar did not make it to the list, the RGI said the unique identification number was “not a proof of citizenship, but only residency”. “Twelve documents are listed under the Citizenship Act and rules. One of those, along with the legacy data of the applicant, is required,” he added.
The officer said there could be many reasons why certain members of a family made it to the draft list, while others did not.
Giving an example, Sailesh said people might not be fully aware of the documentation process and if there was a list of the required documents like the legacy document, which was essential in many cases, then it was quite possible that those might not have been given to the authorities.
“Once people know that such a document (legacy document or any other listed in the charter of citizenship) is not available, they will definitely come with it during the claims and objections process. “The legacy document may be one, but the linked documents are many and each person has one. These aspects will be looked into during the claims and objections process that will begin now,” he said. Sailesh described the entire NRC updating exercise as an operation of “unprecedented scale”, perhaps across the globe.