As August 31, date of publication of final National Register of Citizens (NRC) is fast approaching,  New Delhi based Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) released its report on the economic plight of the people.

RRAG report titled, “The Economic Cost of Draft NRC, Poor Made Extremely Poor” was released by RRAG Director Suhas Chakma on Tuesday.

The report said that the people in Assam excluded from the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) spent Rs 7,836 crore for the hearings and many have been so economically crippled that they will not be able to challenge their exclusion before the Foreigners’ Tribunals.

Chakma said that respondents during a survey carried out by RRAG in Baksa, Goalpara and Kamrup (Rural) districts of Assam between July 17 to July 20 this year said they have spent an average of Rs 19,065 per person for attending the hearing.  The survey covered 62 respondents.

He further said, “If Rs 19,065 has been spent by each person excluded from the NRC on an average, it implies that a total of Rs 78,360,371,985 spent by 41,10,169 persons excluded from the draft NRC at present.”

“The per capita income of Assam during 2018 was Rs 67,620 as per the Ministry of Finance. If Rs 19,065 has been spent for the NRC hearings by each excluded person, it implies that their per capita income had been effectively reduced to Rs 48,555 or about $700 which is at par with the Central African Republic, the civil war-ridden country with the lowest per capita income in the world, just above Somalia,” Chakma said.

The NRC has excluded around 41,10,169 persons, who constitute about 13 per cent of the state’s 31 million population and many are much below the poverty line. Many had to mortgage agricultural lands, sell their cattle, livestock and agricultural products or their only means of income and many took loans to meet the expenses for the NRC hearings.

Explaining the reasons for the high expenses, the report said, “Every person excluded from the draft NRC had to spend more money because when a person from the family is excluded from the draft NRC, it is not only the excluded person who has to attend the NRC hearings but all the adult members of the family or blood relatives who are otherwise included in the draft NRC have to accompany the excluded member as witnesses before the NRC authorities.”

Chakma added, “The expenses multiply because the excluded person has to be present himself or herself along with witnesses for multiple times before the NRC Seva Kendra. Further, many excluded persons received notices from the NRC Seva Kendra in another district to establish the legacy data of their parents or grandparents in that place.”

He further stated, “As majority of those who shall be excluded from the final NRC to be published on August 31, 2019 have already been so economically crippled that they shall not able to meet the costs between Rs 100,000 to Rs 150,000 to challenge the exclusion before the Foreigners’ Tribunals which are quasi-judicial bodies and require representation by lawyers. If they do not have the capacity to defend before the FTs, the question of challenging before the High Court and the Supreme Court does not arise.”

The report stated that hundreds of thousands of people are staring at extreme poverty, hunger and imprisonment in the detention centres as each person shall have to file appeal before the designated Foreigners’ Tribunal constituted under the Foreigners’ (Tribunals) Order, 1964 following publication of the NRC or be treated as foreigner and face the consequences.

The Supreme Court last month extended the deadline to publish the final NRC list by a month to August 31.

The development came after the Centre told the apex court that “lakhs of illegal migrants have been included in the draft NRC” and therefore needed an extension of the deadline for the finalisation of the National Register of Citizens.

Solicitor General (SG) and senior Supreme Court lawyer, Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre and Assam government said that lakhs of people have been wrongly included in the list in alleged collusion with local NRC officials in the state.

“Illegal immigrants have to be dealt with severely. India cannot be the refugee capital of the world,” he had argued.

Till June, over one lakh people more were excluded from the draft NRC published in Assam.

The draft published on July 30, 2018, included the names of 2.9 crore people out of total applications of 3.29 crore. Forty lakh people were left out in the draft.

The update process of NRC started in 2013 when the Supreme Court of India passed orders for its update. Since then, the apex court bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R Fali Nariman has been monitoring it continuously. The entire project is headed by the State Coordinator of National Registration, Assam, Prateek Hajela under the strict monitoring of the Supreme Court.