Guwahati: Prateek Hajela, the officer tasked with supervising the gigantic National Register of Citizens updation in Assam, must be a relaxed man after the final list was published on Saturday.
The 1995 batch IAS officer of Assam-Meghalaya cadre, appointed the NRC coordinator by the Supreme Court, was in the thick of things while navigating the choppy political waters of the state that was cleaved along communal and linguistic lines over the sensitive issue.
Hajela, who is from Madhya Pradesh, had his share of bouquets and brickbats while he led a team of 52,000 officials that sifted through over six crore documents of 3.3 crore applicants, in one of the most complex exercise to validate the Indian citizenship of the residents of Assam.
He is keeping a safe distance from media following a Supreme Court directive and captured on TV cameras leaving his office on Friday night sporting a broad smile. He attended office on Saturday, the day the final NRC was published online, but was unavailable to journalists.
The final NRC list was made public at 10 am and 19,06,657 people were left out.
Former chief minister Tarun Gogoi of the Congress who claims credit for initiating the NRC update work during his tenure, had appointed Hajela as the state coordinator following a Supreme Court order for updating the citizenship roll in 2013.
Soon after his appointment, the 50-year-old bureaucrat hit the ground running.
Introduction of the concept of “family legacy data”, that traced the family tree of an applicant for validation of citizenship, brought him accolades.
Drawing on his technological expertise, Hajela, who has a B.Tech degree in Electronics from IIT Delhi, introduced an innovative mechanism for collecting and collating data of the family tree of every resident of Assam.
The legacy data consisted of the names of residents or their descendants who figured in the first NRC prepared in 1951, or in any of the electoral rolls up to the midnight of March 24, 1971, or any other admissible document which would prove their presence in Assam or any part of India on or before that date.
On the way, Hajela faced criticism from political parties and civil society organisations for alleged flaws in the compilation of the citizenship register.
Guwahati-based civil society group “Sachetan Nagarik Mancha” alleged wrongful exclusions and inclusions in the list.
Prateek Hajela responded, saying: “Such a system of this scale has been put in place for the first time in the entire country only during the NRC update for Assam. This system would certainly qualify to be one of the most scientific methods of verification.”
Interestingly, the names of Hajela and his daughter were missing from the first NRC draft published on December 31, 2017. The two had then appeared for a hearing after which their names figured in the final draft.