CAG Report on the National Register of Citizens (NRC)

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    In News

    • A recent Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) report on the update exercise of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam has flagged serious irregularities.

    About

    • The irregularities include: 
      • haphazard development” of software for the exercise, 
      • Making it prone to data tampering,  
      • Flagged undue profits worth crores amassed by the system integrator (SI) by violating the Minimum Wages Act. 
    • National Register of Citizens (NRC): 
      • It was first created in 1951 in Assam.
      • The objective was to identify those born in India and migrants from erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. 
    • What was the need of NRC?
      • Identify infiltrators: 
        • It effectively suggests bringing legislation that will enable the government to identify infiltrators who have been living in India illegally, detain them and finally deport them where they came from.
      • It will target illegal immigrants in India:
        • But Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh won’t be affected, if they claim they have arrived in India after fleeing religious persecution. 
      • 3 countries: 
        • It essentially means, if a nationwide NRC is implemented as proposed, any illegal immigrant from other than Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, will be affected.
        • And as for those three nations, people coming from there who belong to the Muslim community will also be affected as they are not included in the Citizenship Amendment Act.
    • Supreme Court Directive (2013):
      • It was issued to the Centre and State to initiate an exercise in Assam to update the 1951 register. 
      • The order was based on a petition filed by an NGO named Assam Public Works. 
    • Final List of NRC:
      • It was published in 2019 which included the names of those who could establish their Indian citizenship by being residents or descendants of people living in Assam before March 25, 1971.
        • It was the cut-off date for deportation of foreigners as per the Assam Accord of August 1985. 
    • Exclusion: 
      • As many as 19.06 lakh people out of 3.3 crore applicants were excluded due to a lack of adequate documents to prove their citizenship. 
      • At present, the process is on pause as the Registrar General of India (RGI) is yet to notify the final list.

    Concerns 

    • Cost in implementation:
      • The deadline for completion of this Project was in February 2015 and the project cost was pegged at ?288.18 crore. 
      • A fivefold increase in the cost is seen till March 2022 due to additional time to complete it and changes in the update software.
    • Fund utilisation: 
      • A test check of records revealed irregularities in the utilisation of funds including excess and inadmissible payment to vendors.
    • Wages cut: 
      • The amount of wages paid to the outsourced staff was 45.59%-64.27% less than what was approved by the NRC coordination committee. 
    • Not following Due process:
      • Secure and reliable software was required for the SC-directed exercise, but as many as 215 software utilities were added to the core software. This was done without following the due process of software development and vendor selection via tendering. 

    Way Ahead

    • Penal measures should be taken against Wipro Limited for violating the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act and for paying data operators less than minimum wages. 
    • There should be action against the State Coordinator of National Registration (SCNR) for “excess, irregular and inadmissible payments”. 
    • Fixing accountability of the State Coordinator of National Registration (SCNR) as the principal employer for “not ensuring compliance with the Minimum Wage Act”.

    Source: TH