The biometric details of 40 lakh Assamese people, who filed claims and objections with respect to Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC), will be collected, the Centre has told the Supreme Court. After the final list of the NRC is published, people whose names are not included in the register will be issued Aadhaar number, in the same fashion as Aadhaar enrollment took place in the rest of the country.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told a bench of justices consisting of Ranjan Gogoi, Navin Sinha and K.M. Joseph that the Centre has prepared the standard operating procedure (SOPs) for issues related to filing of claims and objections by 40 lakh people, after which the final NRC will be released.

The Centre told the apex court that while hearings related to exclusions and objections are being conducted by NRC authorities, the state government began collecting the biometrics and started the enrolment of all the applicants of the NRC, in collaboration with the UIDAI. The Centre also said it would collect the Aadhaar numbers of those people who were not on the NRC but had an Aadhaar number.

When the draft NRC was released on July 31, the government had proposed that the processing of claims and objections would take place from 30 August to 28 September 2018. However, the Centre told the SC that it is reasonable to give at least a two month period for receiving the claims and objections for 40 lakh people.

Class 1 officers will be deployed by the State government for the hearings which are estimated to begin on December 15. The government has clarified that the actual date for hearings will begin depending on the number of claims and objections received. As of now, the government has said the NRC will conduct five or eight hearings per day in cases involving children of 14 years or lower. The final NRC list is scheduled for release on December 31, 2018.

Aadhaar penetration lowest in state at 9%

Assam has the lowest Aadhaar penetration rate in the country at just 9% (pdf), against the national average of 89%. While the state has a projected population of 3.46 crore, only 31.3 lakh people have been assigned an Aadhaar number as of June 30, 2018. Aadhaar enrolment was started as a pilot project in the state in 2014, but was restricted to only three out of 24 districts; even then the highest penetration rate in Assam stands at only 46% in Nagaon district. The next state with the lowest penetration is Meghalaya at 24%.

Aadhaar enrolment in the state has been deferred due to the NRC being in process, over fears that the Unique ID could be misused by illegal migrants to claim citizenship and enlist on the NRC. The only state to have such a document, Assam is currently updating its National Registrar of Citizens. An older version of the NRC from 1951 enlists people on the basis of that year’s Census.

On July 31, as the final draft of the NRC was published, the names of 40 lakh people out of 3.29 crore applicants were not on the list. The Supreme Court, which is monitoring the NRC process, had earlier said that the claims of the 40 lakh people whose names did not figure in the first draft of the NRC published by December 31 last year, would be scrutinized and included in the subsequent list, if all the paperwork checked out. The first draft of the NRC, released on December 31, 2017, contained the names of just 1.9 crore people out of 3.2 crore applicants.