The work of updating the tiol Register of Citizens (NRC), 1951, which was to have been completed earlier this year and has been given several extensions of deadline, is in deep trouble because documents sent for verification to different States of India as well as to several foreign countries have not been returned to the authorities engaged in the work of updating the NRC. Of the 402 documents sent for verification to Kuwait, Singapore, Pakistan, Chi, South Africa, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Australia, Germany, Japan, the United States, England, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and other countries, only 13 documents have been returned. Of the 305,995 documents sent for verification to 28 States of India, only 8,223 have been returned after verification. Of the 36,830 documents sent to Bihar for verification, not a single one has been returned. Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh too have been total defaulters like Bihar. Other States like Harya, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have returned just one or two documents out of hundreds or thousands sent for verification. Even Delhi has returned only four of the 3,575 documents sent for verification. This has seriously affected the progress of the updating of the NRC, and even the latest revised deadline of March 2017 may not give time enough for the completion of the work. In fact, going by the attitude of other States of India and other countries to the verification of documents, it is doubtful if all the documents sent for verification to other countries and States will ever be returned. Obviously, the work of updating the NRC cannot be abandoned at this stage because of such glitches. As such, there are only two altertives that one can think of. One is to publish the updated NRC with a statement that x number of documents could not be verified due to lack of cooperation from other States and other countries. Altertively, the authorities could accept documents as submitted by respondents and regard them to be acceptable without verification. This is bound to prove difficult for two reasons: (a) There are far too many Bangladeshi citizens living in Assam who will be the foremost beneficiaries of such a step. They would be able to get away with patently false statements which they would be in dire need of if they have to continue living in Assam. (b) For decades, government agencies have tended to distrust statements made by citizens. This is the conventiol and the standard practice of government agencies and officers—not to trust any statement made by citizens without verification. That is how government officers are trained—not to trust what the citizen states or submits. This ibility of the government to trust its citizens even on simple matters has added substantially to the cost of every single project of the government. With the kind of predicament that the authorities of the NRC update project now find themselves in, it might be advisable to accept statements made by citizens in respect of the updating work of the NRC at face value. This would mean giving up the attitude of perpetual distrust of citizens on statements they make about themselves. This is perhaps the only way out of a rather difficult situation that calls for the elusive cooperation of other States and foreign countries.
One other difficulty that the authorities engaged in the work of updating the NRC are facing is the failure of the Centre to release committed funds for the work. The State is yet to receive Rs 573 crore from the Centre for work connected with the updating of the NRC. At a time when the Centre is so keen to push through the legislation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, it is unlikely that it would at all be enthusiastic about the completion of the NRC update, since the exercise becomes pointless if the proposed Bill becomes law. As for the hundreds of crores of rupees already spent on the updating of the NRC, Indian politicians have seldom lost sleep over the waste of huge sums of public money due to changes in political decisions.