Time consuming, cumbersome and a mammoth task — this is what West Bengal ministers and officials have said about more than 1 lakh names being sent to them for verification by authorities in Assam as part of the exercise to complete the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The Opposition has claimed that the state government has verified only 7,430 names so far.
On Tuesday, Left Front leader Sujan Chakraborty had pointed out in the Assembly that NRC authorities had sent a list of 1,14,971 individuals for verification.
PWD Minister Arup Biswas replied that it was virtually impossible to check each name sent for verification, calling it a “time-consuming” process.
Some ministers remained tight-lipped on the issue. “I would not like to comment on this off-hand,” said state Education Minister and TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee.
“I will not like to comment on this,” said state Food Minister Jyotipriyo Mullick.
District officials on verification process
Meanwhile, many district magistrates have held conference calls with SDOs and other officials to speed up the verification process.
“The process is cumbersome. We have to check records which are 10 to 20 years old, check voters’ lists, land records and others before sending a report that a particular person used to reside here. This is a thorough process. Checks and re-checks are being done to ensure that the report is proper. The names come regularly to us and we send it to our officers for verification. However, off-hand, I cannot reveal how many names came and how many reports we have sent,” said Nadia District Magistrate Sumit Gupta.
“It is a mammoth task. We have development initiatives and day-to-day work to handle with limited manpower. So many names have been sent for verification. We have to go for detailed verification, searching through old records and even paying visits,” a senior home department official told The Indian Express.
How it works
When asked about the process of receiving names, sources said the names are first sent to the home department by the NRC. The names are then sent to the DMs concerned, who forward them to the respective SDOs and BDOs for proper verification. They then send a report to the home department, which relays it back to the NRC.
Government officials said the NRC had first started sending stockpiles of names for verification in mid-2016.
The first draft of NRC was published on December 31, 2017. Thereafter, the state home department had set up a special team to deal with the huge stockpiles of files as the Supreme Court had fixed June 30 as the date for the Assam government to publish the final draft of the NRC.
While the state home department pooled in 18 employees to set up the team, it had also hired five employees of the National Census Directorate of the central government.
“After the first draft was published on December 2017, our attention fell on the huge stockpile of files,” said a senior home department official.
“We have been asked to finish the job at the earliest and that is why we have engaged a total of 24 people to complete the job. It’s a Herculean task, we know, but we have to complete the job at any cost. We sorted out the files and sent them to district magistrates for verification,” he said.
While the Trinamool Congress, CPM and Congress were united in their criticism of the NRC implementation, the Opposition also trained their guns at the state government over the delay in verification of names.
“The chief minister is criticizing that 40 lakh names have found no place in the NRC. At the same time, the government is dragging its feet in sending reports. It is the same chief minister who, in recent rallies in north Bengal, said she will not allow people from Assam to be pushed in. Now she is saying she will welcome people from Assam. This is a double face for political gains,” said Chakraborty.
“The government should present the true picture and say why no replies have been sent for so many people,” said Congress leader Abdul Mannan.