FIR Against Ex-Official After Online Assam NRC List Goes Missing

Data of the final list of the NRC has been made offline from its official website due to non-renewal of contract.

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India
4 min read
People show their acknowledgement receipts after checking their names in a draft for National Register of Citizens (NRC), in Guwahati. File image.
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Hours after Assam's updated citizenship data disappeared from the website 'nrcassam.nic.in', an FIR was filed against a former NRC official for allegedly failing to submit the password to the sensitive document before quitting her job.

Talking to PTI on Thursday, NRC state coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma said the complaint against former NRC project officer was filed under Official Secrets Act in Paltan Bazar police station here, as she "did not provide the password to the document, despite written reminders".

The Ministry of Home Affairs, on Wednesday, said that the Assam NRC list data going offline is nothing but a technical issue in visibility on the cloud, and that the issue will be resolved soon.

“She failed to surrender the password even after tendering her resignation on 11 November last year. She was a contractual employee and no longer authorised to hold the password, after quitting her job. An FIR has been filed against the former NRC project officer on Wednesday for violating the Official Secrets Act,” he said.

Sarma also stated that the NRC office had written to her on several occasions for submitting the password, but did not get any response.

“We knew (she had resigned) and, therefore, sent several letters to her for handing over the password. But as she did not respond all these months, we filed a complaint against her yesterday for violating the Official Secrets Act.

Earlier, the Congress had called the missing of data from the official website a “malafide act”. It was reported that all data of the final NRC list was made offline from its official website due to non-renewal of contract with the IT firm Wipro.

Sarma accepted that the data have been made offline, but refuted the allegation of any “malafide” intent in it.

List Made Offline Due to Non-Renewal of Contract with Wipro

Sarma said that the state coordination committee had discussed the issue in its meeting on 30 January and wrote to Wipro during the first week of February.

“Once Wipro makes the data live, it will be available to the public. We hope that people will be able to access it in the next 2-3 days,” Sarma claimed.

Reacting to the development, Wipro had said: “The IT Services Contract was not renewed by the authorities upon its expiry in October 2019. However, as a gesture of goodwill, the company continued to pay the hosting service fee until January-end, 2020.”

“The cloud service for the huge set of data was provided by Wipro and their contract was till 19 October last year. However, this was not renewed by the earlier Coordinator. So, the data got offline from 15 December after it was suspended by Wipro. I assumed charge on 24 December.”
Hitesh Dev Sarma, NRC State Coordinator, as quoted by PTI

RTI Activist Seeks Copy of Contract with Wipro

Senior journalist-cum-RTI activist Saket Gokhale had sent an application to the NIC, the IT wing of the government, seeking a copy of the contract with Wipro.

"The Assam NRC data suddenly vanishing from the website (& the lack of data security) is incredibly shady.

“I've filed an RTI with the NIC specifically asking about details of the contract with Wipro, name of the cloud service provider, & all contracts signed for hosting this,” he tweeted, while attaching a copy of the RTI application.

How Did the NRC Data Vanish, Asks Opposition

Reacting to the development, Leader of the Opposition in Assam Assembly Debabrata Saikia wrote to the Registrar General of India and requested him to look into the matter urgently.

“It is a mystery as to why the online data should vanish all of a sudden, especially as the appeals process has not even started due to the go-slow attitude adopted by the NRC Authority. There is, therefore, ample scope to suspect that the disappearance of online data is a malafide act. “
Debabrata Saikia, Leader of the Opposition in Assam Assembly

Indeed, the deletion of data from the NRC website at a time when the appeals process is yet is start, is prima facie a deliberate violation of the directive issued by the Hon'ble Supreme Court.

“This act also violates the rules pertaining to the NRC, which stipulates various processes post publication of the NRC,” Saikia wrote in the letter.

Another FIR Against Hajela for Allegedly tampering With List

In another FIR filed with state criminal investigation department on Wednesday, NGO Assam Public Works (APW) alleged that former NRC Assam coordinator Prateek Hajela tampered with the final NRC list - published on 31 August, 2019.

APW member Rajib Deka, in his complaint, accused Hajela of disobeying orders and directions of the Supreme Court, forgery of public register and committing offences under cyber laws for altering or changing public records by misusing his powers and position.

The NGO also said that after publication of the final list, several social networks and sections of the media had reported anomalies, insisting that many ‘doubtful’ persons were able to insert their names in the final list.

The final NRC was published by excluding 19,06,657 persons. A total of 3,11,21,004 names were included out of 3,30,27,661 applicants.

After the earlier NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela was released on 11 November following his transfer to home state Madhya Pradesh on a direction from the Supreme Court, Sarma was appointed in his place on 9 November.

However, Sarma did not join immediately and went on a month-long leave after the Congress and other organisations opposed his appointment due to his alleged "highly partial and controversial" posts on social media.

(With inputs from PTI)

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