Insights into Editorial: What connects the NPR, NRIC and Census?
As protests spread all across the country against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 and the proposed National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC), West Bengal and Kerala suspended work related to the preparation and update of the National Population Register (NPR) in their respective States.
The NPR, a register of residents of the country with demographic and biometric details, was supposed to be prepared between April 2020 and September 2020 ahead of the Census slated for 2021.
Preliminary work on the NPR has begun in several States. In Bengal, civil rights activists had been protesting against the compilation of the NPR alleging that it had nothing to with the Census, but the “first step to initiate the National Register of Citizens” in the State.
According to Section 14A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 (which was inserted in 2004), the Central Government may compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue a national identity card to him; and it may maintain a National Register of Indian Citizens.
The Union Cabinet approved a proposal to conduct Census 2021 and update the National Population Register (NPR).
While the Census will be conducted in 2021, the NPR update will take place from April to September 2020 in all the States/UTs except Assam.
According to the sources, the Union Cabinet has approved a proposal of the Home Ministry to spend Rs 8,754 crore for the Census 2021 and Rs 3,941 crore for updating the NPR.
Documents requires that would help establish citizenship:
The government is yet to notify a date for generation of the NRIC.
It has not yet prescribed rules for the sort of documentary proof that would be required to prove citizenship.
The government says any document that shows date of birth or place of birth, or both, will be sufficient.
And that common documents will be accepted, and those unable to produce documents may produce witnesses or other proof supported by members of the community.
What is the National Population Register (NPR)?
- The NPR is a database containing a list of all usual residents of the country. Its objective is to have a comprehensive identity database of people residing in the country.
- It is generated through house-to-house enumeration during the “house-listing” phase of the census, which is held once in 10 years.
- The last census was in 2011, and the next will be done in 2021 (and will be conducted through a mobile phone application, according to the Home Ministry).
- A usual resident for the purposes of NPR is a person who has resided in a place for six months or more, and intends to reside there for another six months or more
- The census involves a detailed questionnaire — there were 29 items to be filled up in the 2011 census — aimed at eliciting the particulars of every person, including age, sex, marital status, children, occupation, birthplace, mother tongue, religion, disability and whether they belonged to any Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.
- On the other hand, the NPR collects basic demographic data and biometric particulars.
- Once the basic details of the head of the family are taken by the enumerator, an acknowledgement slip will be issued. This slip may be required for enrolment in NPR, whenever that process begins.
- And, once the details are recorded in every local (village or ward), sub-district (tehsil or taluk), district and State level, there will be a population register at each of these levels. Together, they constitute the National Population Register.
What is the legal basis for the NPR?
While the census is legally backed by the Census Act, 1948, the NPR is a mechanism outlined in a set of rules framed under the Citizenship Act, 1955.
Section 14A was inserted in the Citizenship Act, 1955, in 2004, providing for the compulsory registration of every citizen of India and the issue of a “national identity card” to him or her.
It also said the Central government may maintain a “National Register of Indian Citizens”.
The Registrar General India shall act as the “National Registration Authority” (and will function as the Registrar General of Citizen Registration). Incidentally, the Registrar General is also the country’s Census Commissioner.
The NPR is the first step towards establishing the NRIC.
Is there any link between the NPR and Aadhaar?
- Better targeting and delivery of benefits and services under the government was one of the early objectives of the NPR.
- During the early days of the NPR enrolment, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) scheme for issuance of Aadhaar numbers was also concurrently on.
- There was a conflict between the Union Home Ministry, which administers the NPR, and UIDAI, leaving the impression that there was duplication of work, as both involved gathering personal particulars, including biometric data.
- Ultimately, they agreed that both databases will exist with different objectives, and that each will use the other’s biometric data. Those already enrolled for Aadhaar need not give their biometric details again during NPR.
- At the same time, data captured for NPR would be sent to UIDAI for “de-duplication”. In case of discrepancy between Aadhaar and NPR data, the latter would prevail.
- The present regime decided to update the NPR originally created after the 2011 Census.
What is the relationship between the NPR and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act?
There is no direct link. But remarks by the Home Minister that the CAA would be followed by the NRC has given rise to fears that when people are excluded from the final citizenship register, the CAA may help non-Muslims take the CAA route to apply for citizenship, and leave Muslims with no option. However, the government seeks to allay these fears.
Legally, the states have no say in implementing or ruling out NPR. However, given that the manpower is drawn from the states, the defiance could potentially result in a showdown.
The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every “usual resident” in the country.
While there are concerns about privacy, the government position is based on two grounds.
One is that every country must have a comprehensive identity database of its residents with demographic details.
In its statement issued after Cabinet approval to NPR, the Home Ministry said the objective of conducting NPR is to “prepare a credible register of every family and individual” living in the country apart from “strengthening security” and “improvement in targeting of beneficiaries under various Central government schemes”.