A callous government just made it tougher to sell NRC to Indians

Citizens protesting against the National Population Register (NPR), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)BCCL

  • The National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam went offline yesterday.
  • The NRC State Coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma believes the data will be back online in two to three days.
  • The Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Assembly is of the opinion that this may have been a "malafide act".
  • The disappearing act doesn’t bode well for the government’s plans to expand the NRC from just Assam to the rest of the country by 2021.
A day after Safer Internet Day, Indians woke up to the news that the Indian government’s data on Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) went offline. The callousness of the painstakingly collected controversial data — which shows if a person is a bonafide Indian citizen or not — left people angry and amused.

Users on social media have pointed out that individuals are more careful about renewing their Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions than the government is about NRC data.

The government which seems to have forgotten to renew its cloud subscription however, doesn’t seem to think it’s a very big issue. According to the NRC State Coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma, there’s nothing wrong afoot. He said that — the data only went offline only because the government didn’t renew their cloud storage with the Indian IT firm Wipro. The contract expired in October 2019 — five months back.

"So, the data got offline from December 15 after it was suspended by Wipro. I assumed charge on December 24," Sarma told PTI, washing his hands off the issue.

Two months down the line, the government still doesn’t have a new partner or a new contract with Wipro. However, Sarma promises that the data will be back online in another two to three days and available to the public.

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Something feels fishy
Indians who are already protesting NRC — as well as the National Population Register (NPR) — do not believe in coincidences.

The Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Assembly — Debabrata Saikia — has written to the Registrar General of India to look into the matter. According to him, this may have been a "malafide act" — a preemptive move with ill-intentions.

"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," Saikia wrote.

"This act also violates the rules pertaining to the NRC, which stipulates various processes post-publication of the NRC," he added.

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Although the data is no longer visible online, it doesn’t mean that the data has disappeared altogether. Wipro is yet to reply to Business Insider’s request for more information on the issue.

However, it is likely that the data is still saved on servers. It will be brought back online once the government renews its contract.

Significance of the NRC
The NRC was implemented for Assam in 2019 — although the allowance for the register was added to the Citizenship Act in a 2003 amendment. And, the central government has plans to implement it for the rest of the country in 2021.

However, protests in different parts of the country — from the national capital to Tamil Nadu — have voiced their opposition to any such move. Citizens are disenchanted with the measure in anticipation of more detention centres and the skewed ratio of depriving Muslims of citizenship.

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Critics say the NRC combined with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is a way of stoking religious tensions.

In August 2019, 1.9 million people in Assam were excluded from the register, which means they won’t be considered as ‘legal’ citizens of the state. Amnesty International criticized the move which leaves millions with an uncertain future.

"Assam is on the brink of a crisis which would not only lead to a loss of nationality and liberty of a large group of people but also the erosion of their basic rights – severely affecting the lives of generations to come," said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty International India.

The database going offline is not going to help the government’s cause to collect more data - especially when people are already wary of its possible misuse.

See also:
Many parts of India are burning and the rest are on the edge as protests against new Citizenship Act spread

CAA protests: Kerala government takes 100 people into preventive custody ahead of a bundh

NRC process to be carried out in entire country: Amit Shah in Rajya Sabha
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