Assam Civil Service officer Hitesh Dev Sarma has been appointed as the coordinator of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the northeastern state.
The 1986-batch officer got the job after the Supreme Court allowed incumbent Prateek Hajela an inter-cadre transfer to Madhya Pradesh, and asked the Assam government to suggest names of officers who could succeed him.
Mr Sarma had earlier worked with the NRC directorate in 2013, when the exercise was first launched. He was moved out to the Department of Finance and Urban Development in Guwahati in 2016, where he functioned as a secretary.
The NRC is aimed at identifying illegal migrants living in India. The updated final list published on August 31 under Mr Hajela had left out over 19 lakh applicants, resulting in protests from the ruling BJP as well as opposition parties. Mr Sarma will now have to launch the process of instructing those left out of the final NRC to approach foreigner tribunals with objections, if any.
People excluded from the NRC list have 120 days to appeal before foreigner tribunals. If they are not satisfied with the verdict, they have the option of moving the High Court and the Supreme Court.
Although the Supreme Court had ordered the centre to transfer Prateek Hajela to Madhya Pradesh within seven days on October 18, the latter approached it with a request to extend his deadline. The top court hadn't specified the reason behind transferring the 1995-bath IAS officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre who oversaw the mammoth task of finalising and publishing NRC data.
Assam, which has been facing a huge influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state to have an NRC exercise. The first such list was prepared in 1951.