NRC in Assam: Digital mode to track excluded migrants

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Guwahati, Dec 30 (IANS) The Central government-sponsored Rs 99 crore smart digital mode e-Foreigners Tribunals (e-FT) in Assam would facilitate tracking of illegal immigrants identified through the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a top official said here on Monday.

Assam Additional Chief Secretary (Home, Political) Kumar Sanjay Krishna told IANS over the phone that the Centre, in response to a state government proposal, has approved a Rs 99 crore e-FT scheme to introduce a “biometric-based real-time” tracking system for suspected illegal immigrants identified though the NRC.

“The e-FT works have started across the state. The Home Department in association with District Magistrates, district police heads, all Foreigners Tribunals and the border wing department would jointly accomplish the task,” Krishna said.

Appointed Chief Secretary last week, Krishna is due to assume charge this week, as incumbent Chief Secretary Alok Kumar will be retiring on Tuesday.

Krishna said that 100 Foreigners Tribunals are currently functioning in Assam and process is on to constitute 200 more such quasi-judicial single-member bodies.

A Union Home Ministry report has said that it has recently given “in-principle” approval for setting up of 1,000 additional Foreigners Tribunals in Assam to settle the disputes, if any, of the NRC recognised “immigrants”.

According to a senior official of the Assam Home Department, the e-FT, which is a single window platform, which would help “finding, prosecuting, detention and deportation of declared foreigners” on a real-time basis, is being executed by the Assam government jointly with the Union ministry.

The official, on condition of anonymity, said that the digital tracking system would ensure that the illegal immigrants are not able to avail any kind of government identity documents, including the electors photo identity card (EPIC), passports, driving license, Aadhaar card, PAN card and ration card.

“The new digital tracking method would also ensure that illegal immigrants do not have access to any government benefit and help under various social welfare schemes once they are declared foreigners,” he added.

The digital innovative platform consists of a biometric-based common database as well as digitisation and automation of all records and processes pertaining to suspected illegal immigrants.

The Supreme Court-approved standard operating procedure (SOP) for the claims-and-objections exercise of the NRC last year directed collection of biometric data of those who were excluded from the NRC list and have filed claims and also of those against whom objections have been filed.

The e-FT application is being developed using the existing network of the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), a nationwide tracking system of crime investigation and detection of criminals, connecting all police stations across the country.

The stalled NRC exercise was resumed in 2013 to identify the foreigners in Assam. The Supreme Court-monitored final NRC list was published on August 31.

Of Assam’s 33 million residents who were asked to prove their Indian citizenship, names of about 1.9 million were excluded in the NRC final list published on August 31 this year. These names will now be referred to the Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs) constituted by the Assam government.

There are 100 FTs currently functioning in Assam and 200 more such tribunals are in the process of constitution.

Initially, 11 Illegal Migrant Determination Tribunals (IMDT) were functioning. After the repeal of IMDT Act, the Assam government set up 21 FTs in 2005 and subsequently the number of FTs have increased.

Retired Judges and selected lawyers have been appointed as the members of FTs under the Foreigners Tribunal Act, 1941, and Foreigners Tribunal Order 1964.

Six detention camps for foreigners are currently being run from the district jail premises at Dibrugarh, Silchar, Tezpur, Jorhat, Kokrajhar and Goalpara. Around 990 people are lodged in these detention camps, where, so far, 29 people have died.

Several other detention camps are under constructions in Assam.