Back-pedalling on NRC
However vociferously the Tarun Gogoi government may claim otherwise, its intentions remain suspect about the NRC update exercise. The Chief Minister says that any loopholes in the exercise should be brought to the notice of the concerned authority, but the exercise itself does not inspire confidence of proceeding on schedule with due urgency. The AASU has lately flayed the government for ‘stonewalling’ the exercise, which Chief Minister Gogoi has pooh-poohed as ‘false and baseless’. So what is it that makes the AASU smell a rat? It transpires that the Revenue department has issued a directive recently to all deputy commissioners and sub-divisiol officers to accord priority to other departmental work from November 15. In particular, the purported order that revenue officials including mandals, lat-mandals and kanungos will have to go for winter circuits in all the districts — has raised eyebrows all around. It is well known that apart from their primary work related to land survey and revenue, these officials form the backbone of other governmental work like conducting census, preparing electoral rolls as well as the ongoing exercise to update the tiol Register of Citizens. So when will these officials have the time to go for the critical phase of NRC update involving door-to-door verification expected to start this week itself? The powers-be at Dispur may have made other arrangements to get the work done, but its record of constant back-pedalling in NRC work keeps raising the suspicions of AASU, APW and other petitioners fighting the issue in Supreme Court. After all, this is the government that had to be prodded repeatedly by the apex court to begin the NRC update exercise, and then upbraided for going slow with the work. Taking on the responsibility to monitor the exercise, the Supreme Court had to extend the deadline for submission of NRC forms by one month to August 31 last — with complaints galore about the manner in which the exercise was publicised and conducted. And then on October 6, the apex court extended by two months the deadlines for publication of draft NRC and fil NRC, with the Assam government pleading for more time to complete such a difficult and detailed exercise. According to the revised deadlines, the draft NRC will have to be published by January 1 and fil NRC by March 1 next year. There is very little margin for slip-ups left if these revised deadlines are to be met, so the State government ordering employees to focus on other priorities — is bound to create misgivings. Such surreptitious moves by the Tarun Gogoi government fly in the face of repeated directives by the Supreme Court and the Registrar General of India (RGI) to Dispur to give highest priority to the NRC update exercise, as well as ensure that government employees engaged in the work are not hampered in any manner.