Amid the growing demand for caste census from several opposition parties and the centre stonewalling it, the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI has opened a criminal investigation to probe alleged cheating and falsification of census data collected through a private firm as part of Socio Economic Caste Census, also known as SECC, in 2011.
The CBI has filed a cheating case against Lalit Rai, director of Thane-based Netwing Technologies Pvt Ltd, which was part of SECC-2011.
The centre through the Rural Development Ministry conducted the SECC across the country in 2011. This was also India’s first paperless census across 640 districts.
While the data on socio economic features of households were released in July 2015, the caste data has not been released till date after the centre cited “errors” in the data.
Indian Telephone Industries or ITI, a government company, was roped in by the Rural Development Ministry for the SECC-2011 project and the Thane-based Netwing Technologies had signed a contract with ITI in October 2011 for conducting the SECC.
Lalit Rai’s company was awarded the work for conducting SECC in five districts of Delhi, including New Delhi, central Delhi, east Delhi, northeast Delhi and northwest Delhi.
ITI alleges that Mr Rai’s company gave false and duplicate data to the government, resulting in financial loss to the centre.
“Netwing technologies Private Limited committed cheating and misappropriation of government funds to the tune of Rs 4.56 crore by the way of furnishing falsified and duplicate data to NIC (National Informatics Centre),” ITI said in its complaint, seen by NDTV.
ITI had filed the complaint with Kerala Police as the agreement was signed at Palakad division of ITI. Since the matter is about alleged misappropriation of government funds and cheating in a central project, the CBI took over the investigation based on recommendation by the centre and the Kerala governments.
The annual report of ITI for 2013-14 says, “During the year a fraud has been reported by the company involving an amount of Rs 2,453 lakh by M/s Netwing Technologies Pvt Ltd, a service provider of the company in the implementation of SECC project in Palakkad unit.”
The CBI investigation comes at a time when the Maharashtra government has approached the Supreme Court seeking raw data of Other Backward Classes or OBCs collected in the state through SECC-2011.
Opposing the Maharashtra government’s request, the centre told the Supreme Court in September this year that “caste enumeration in SECC-2011 is fraught with mistakes”.
Defending its argument that the data is “unusable”, the centre had told the Supreme Court that an analysis of the SECC-2011 data showed there were more than 46 lakh different castes across the country, while the first census in 1931 showed only 4,147 castes.