Image courtesy: K. Murali Kumar / The Hindu
The Field Trials for the first phase of Census and National Population Register (NPR) are on the cards, as reported by The Hindu. The Census houselisting and NPR was scheduled to begin in April 2020, but the same got derailed and delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the government, during the recently concluded budget session, said that no definite dates have been decided for the Census-NPR exercise, a government official from the office of the Registrar General of India (RGI) told the newspaper that they are planning to conduct pre-tests or field trials through the app in one block each of every district, which is expected to cover 50 to 60 households. It is reported that the app will contain questionnaires on house listing and housing census and the NPR.
“The dates for conducting the Census exercise have not been finalised yet. But the enumerators will have to be trained in using the app. Many enumerators are young schoolteachers who are expected to use the app instead of the paper schedule [form]. There will be incentives for the electronic form,” the unnamed official told The Hindu.
On February 9, Vivek Joshi, RGI and Census Commissioner of India, chaired a virtual meeting of the Directors of Census Operations of all States to review the preparations for the coming Census where the field trials using the app were discussed, stated the news report.
The official further said that instruction manuals for enumerators and other Census functionaries have been prepared, and that the app has been improvised after 2019 trials for conducting field trial afresh. He said they are waiting for direction from RGI.
As many as 13 states and Union Territories had opposed to carrying out the exercise of updating the NPR, as the same was closely associated with the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC). Although, the ruling government denied the link between NPR and NRC, the law that is already in place did not back their claims. The Citizenship Rules, 2003 clearly state that NPR is the first step to creating NRC.
The updation of NPR was justified by the Centre stating that the first NPR was prepared in 2010 and was updated in 2015 and hence, it needs to be updated again.
NPR is a National Population Register which will contain the details of all the ‘usual residents’ of the country regardless of whether they are citizens or non-citizens of India. The electronic database of more than 119 crore usual residents of the country has already been created under NPR which was created in 2010 along with Houselisting and Housing Census 2010.
The questions different from previous NPRs were date and place of birth of mother and father, and these were the ones that invoked political outrage. As many states raised their voices against inclusion of these questions, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) declared that the questions asked in the NPR would be voluntary and hence, one can choose to not tell the government where their parents were born.
As has been contended by people opposing Citizenship Amendment Act, along with NRC and NPR, the NPR is not a standalone exercise but has to be seen as an advance towards NRC which will then use CAA to incarcerate millions for not having documents to prove their citizenship. This deadly combination has been explained in detailed here.