RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- NPR- NATIONAL POPULATION REGISTER
The Union Cabinet approved a proposal to update the National Population Register (NPR), which is linked to the Census. The exercise will cost Rs 8,500 crore, the government said. The Census Commission has said the objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every “usual resident” of the country. The database will have demographic details. A “usual resident”, for the NPR, is a person who has lived in an area for at least six months or more, or a person who intends to live in an area for the next six months or more. It is mandatory for every “usual resident” of India to register in the NPR. The NPR, since it is linked to the Census, is seen as the first step towards a nationwide exercise to implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Though an NPR doesn’t necessarily mean it’s guaranteed there will be an NRC, it clears the path for a nationwide citizens’ list. This is seen as one of the reasons why some states like West Bengal and Kerala, which are opposed to the NRC, have stopped work on the NPR.
The National Population Register (NPR):
· It is a Register of usual residents of the country.
· It is being prepared at the local (Village/sub-Town), sub-District, District, State and National level under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
· It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR.
· A usual resident is defined for the purposes of NPR as a person who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.
The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country. The database would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars.
The following demographic details of every individual are required for every usual resident:
· The data for National Population Register was collected in 2010 along with the house listing phase of Census of India 2011.
· The updation of this data was done during 2015 by conducting door to door survey.
· The digitisation of the updated information has been completed.
· Now it has been decided to update the National Population Register along with the Houselisting phase of Census 2021 during April to September 2020 in all the States/UTs except Assam.
· A Gazette notification to this effect has already been published by the Central Government.
· The NPR database would contain demographic as well as biometric details.
· As per the provisions of the NPR, a resident identity card (RIC) will be issued to individuals over the age of 18.
· This will be a chip-embedded smart card containing the demographic and biometric attributes of each individual.
· The UID number will also be printed on the card.
Controversy around it:
· Comes in the backdrop of the NRC excluding lakhs of people in Assam.
· It intends to collect a much larger amount of personal data on residents of India.
· There is yet no clarity on the mechanism for protection of this vast amount of data.
Census and NPR:
- There are two crucial differences between the census and NPR processes.
- First, the census doesn’t ask for individual identity details, and at the end of the day, is a macro exercise.
- The NPR, on the other hand, is designed to collect identity details of every individual.
- The second is that census data is protected by a confidentiality clause. The government has committed that it will not reveal information received from an individual for the headcount.
- Officials said the NPR would serve as the mother database to verify citizenship if a nationwide NRC is carried out later.
- The home ministry used the example of the Ujjwala scheme, under which subsidised gas cylinders are given to below-poverty-line families, to underline the importance of data in shaping welfare policy.
Positives of National Population Register (NPR) :
- Population census is an exercise that helps to provide people the benefits of the government schemes. National Population Register will help government solve many issues in the country.
- A digital NPR will help in solving several issues, like law and order and gender equality.
- It would be a solution to the multifarious problems facing the country – from effective maintenance of law and order to an efficient implementation of welfare schemes like MGNREGA, food security and nutrition campaigns.
- NPR will prove to be a game changer in the country. Digital census has many benefits.
- If a child takes birth and attains the age of 18, then he/she should be able to vote automatically without applying for a voter identification card.
- A Census helps us plan our social welfare and entitlement schemes better, through NPR India would have a multipurpose identity document that will have all details like Aadhaar and PAN card.
- Pivacy concerns which are there with Aadhaar will continue to add with any kind of data collected.
- The fact that Aadhaar details will be added to the NPR database has given rise to concerns of data privacy.
- The NPR has raised anxieties around the idea of citizenship in the country.
- After a list of residents is created, a nationwide NRC could go about verifying the citizens from that list.
- In the past, reports have stated that Aadhaar data has been compromised on multiple occasions even as the UIDAI continues to deny that there have been breaches.
- The personal data that the government is planning to collect for NPR is quite large and there are concerns whether the government is equipped to protect the citizens’ data.
- Apart from data privacy, concern has also been voiced over the exercise as a whole.
- NPR will be the base for a nationwide National Register of Citizens and will be similar to the list of citizens of Assam released recently.
- During the NRC exercise, there were several instances where some members of a family featured in the draft list while the others did not.
- The idea of NPR is a likely cause for worry since there could be such discrepancies in the NPR as well.
- 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”.