Testimony Of
Child Protection Officer

Debanshi (name changed) was expecting a baby and knew she would need help once the baby arrived. She had a decently-paying government job and could afford live-in house help. It was around then that she heard of her distant cousin Tanuka who had lost her mother. Tanuka’s father was unable to take care of her so Debanshi reached out and offered to Tanuka’s father to have her move in. It could be an arrangement that could work out well for both of them.

Meanwhile, at work, as a Child Protection Officer, Debanshi was confronted with complications arising out of the ongoing NRC process. There was no clarity on what would happen to orphans or homeless children. As a result, when the draft NRC was published in July 2018, many such children were left out of the list. It was only later, in November 2018 that the Supreme Court finally approved a set of guidelines as the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which to a degree, addressed the problem. Institutional homes would have to submit documents on behalf of orphaned and destitute children. A committee formed at the circle and district levels would verify these documents and the citizenship of the children would be determined.

Debanshi’s delivery date was coming closer and Tanuka was sent to live with her. When she arrived, Debanshi learnt that Tanuka's father had not applied to the NRC. Debanshi was worried. She didn’t know what would happen to those whose papers had not been filed. She was also concerned that she may be penalised for housing someone who is not on the citizens’ list.

When she heard a team of women was visiting their area, she came to meet us.
It is estimated that there are about 3,90,000 people in Assam who for one reason or another have not applied to the NRC. As a government official, she had no idea what to do in this case. But neither did Assam’s Home Commissioner and Secretary Ashutosh Agnihotri who, according to one media report said, “The State Coordinator for NRC is yet to share the details [about those who did not apply].”