Prateek Hajela’s return paved way by Madhya Pradesh government

Nava J Thakuria

Guwahati: Prateek Hajela, IAS, who faces a number of FIRs in Assam for alleged involvement in National Register of Citizens (NRC) updation scam in the State, has been relinquished by Madhya Pradesh government from the social justice department (also the chief executive officer in Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Good Governance and Policy Analysis) in the central Indian State.

Hajela, a 1995-batch IAS officer, who was sent to Madhya Pradesh in 2019 following an order of the Supreme Court (assuming threats to his life over NRC Assam fraudulent issues), is now bound to return back to his original Assam-Meghalaya cadre. One official complaint against him, lodged by his immediate successor Hitesh Devsarma, IAS, was even related to the anti-national charge.

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Devsarma filed two complaints (one with the criminal investigation department of Assam Police and other with the CM’s vigilance and anti-corruption wing) alleging corruption and money laundering by Hajela. Prior to his retirement, Devsarma in his complaints also named some other officials and outside people suspected to be involved in the scam. Later in various public discourses, he claimed that the NRC final draft (released in August 2019) included thousands of illegal migrants’ names.

For records, the NRC updation process began in December 2014 with an initial project cost of around Rs 2880 million and was supposed to be completed within 14 months (by February 2015). But the timeline for the project went on lingering. Because of the time overruns, the project cost escalated up to nearly Rs 16 billion by March 2022.

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Though claimed by Hajela the draft NRC as the final one (which was shamelessly propagated by a section of Guwahati-based television scribes in their talk shows as being the best one), it’s yet to be
officially notified by the Registrar General of India.

The issue drew public attention recently as the Comptroller and Auditor General also detected massive financial anomalies involving millions of Rupees in the process of NRC updation for Assam. The
country’s supreme audit institution in its report ending 31 March 2020 (which was placed in Assam State legislative assembly for discussions) recommended legal actions against Hajela and the system integrator (the country’s most acclaimed Wipro limited). The CAG report claimed that the intended objective of preparing an error-free NRC was not fulfilled.

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