Census Vs. NPR, is the GOI deliberately confusing the citizen?

Citizens protests need to demand that the Govt does not start the Census 2021 process until the NPR-NRC is completely withdrawn


The Government of India has suddenly declared that it will conduct a door to door survey to determine the ordinary residents of India from April 2020 to September 2020 (National Population Register-NPR). India is also due for the decennial population survey, the Census in 2021. Expect a notification from the Registrar General of Census soon.

However, by clubbing these two processes, one a much needed and regular process, the Census with the second, controversial NPR-NRC process the government is deliberately generating confusion and causing alarm.

The 21 questions that the government is now asking under the new NPR 2020 threatens our privacy, may lead to surveillance and most dangerous of all can help target and mark out sections of the population for disenfranchisement from citizenship. This is why many citizens protests have been saying NO to NPR-NRC.

What we need to say equally clearly is that we have no objection to the Census. Hence, we need to clearly understand and distinguish between the two. 

However we also need to tell the government: do not start the Census 2021 process until the NPR-NRC is completely withdrawn.


Meanwhile here is a Citizens’ primer:

Which questions do we need to answer?  Which must we refuse to answer?  Why? 

I. Importance of Census data collection

Census is the primary source of basic national population data required for administrative purposes and for many aspects of economic and social research and planning. As per the census website, the population census provides the basic data for administrative purposes. One of the most basic of the administrative uses of census data is in the demarcation of constituencies and the allocation of representation on governing bodies. The census data also prove useful in national income estimates and estimates on differential personal incomes in rural and urban areas and the composition of rural and urban consumption of groups of goods and services and income elasticity co-efficients.

Census is the most credible source of information on Demography (Population characteristics), Economic Activity, Literacy and Education, Housing & Household Amenities, Urbanisation, Fertility and Mortality, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Language, Religion, Migration, Disability and many other socio-cultural and demographic data.

The Census in India is conducted as per provisions of the Census Act, 1948. Providing accurate data is mandatory under section 8 of the Census Act, 1948 which states that every person of whom any question (published in official gazette for Census purposes) is asked shall be legally bound to answer such question to the best of his knowledge.

Further, section 4A of the Census Act makes it binding on any local authority to make available staff employed under it as may be directed by written order of Central government for the purpose of performance of any duties in connection with taking of census.

Census 2021 will be the 8th census to be conducted in independent India and 16th Census since 1872, which was carried out under the British Raj.

II. Can Census / NPR data be misused?

While there are a lot of positives on census data collection, there is also a dark side to it which gets slipped under the rug. Germany misused its census data to identify Jews to later persecute them and as they invaded few other countries of Europe, they got their population data and used it to identify people to be rounded up, put in labour camps and ultimately exterminated.

Even USA had misused population data during the second World War to get data on people of Japanese origin. Japanese-American population on the west coast of the US was rounded up and sent to concentration camps for the duration of the war.

III. Census in two phases

The census data is collected in two phases in India. First is the Houselisting phase which precedes the second phase of Household data collection phase. The former collects data on the house, the amenities in the house, like toilet, electricity, water supply. This helps the government asecertain how much of the population needs to be provided with such basic facilities and then policies are formulated accordingly and also funds are allocated. That is the objective of the first phase. The government is also able to ascertain the standard of living of people by finding out whether the house has a car or jeep or any vehicle.

The second phase is about the members in the household. This data not only ascertains the number of people in the household and hence consequently the population of the country, but also becomes a repository of data on the mother tongue, religion people follow, whether they are from the reserved category, how literate they are, whether they are disabled. All of this data is ideally to be put to use for the purpose of formulating policies for the minority population or policies to benefit the disabled. It also becomes a graph of cultural diversity of the country, especially like India which has 22 official languages and many more dialects. Literacy rate affects education police, sex ratio affects policies for women empowerment as well and hence policy makers eagerly wait for census data to make a further plan of action and also it comes as a report card to ascertain whether their policies had any impact on literacy or the sex ratio and such other factors.

The questions asked in the census are important and sufficient from the policy perspective and very minor changes have been made to the census questionnaire over the years.


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. As per decision of the Government of India, the NPR Database has been updated during 2015-16 in all States/UTs (except Assam and Meghalaya) to make a comprehensive resident database.

V. Is NPR a law?

NPR is being undertaken under the provisions of The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules,2003.

It is pertinent to note that NPR does not have statutory backing. It has not been passed as a law by both houses of the Parliament. It is a part of subordinate or delegated legislation which allows the executive to make rules and regulations for better implementation of a law. If NPR were really subordinate to the Census it would have been included in the Census Rules instead of the Citizenship Rules.

VI. NPR and Census

As per the instruction manual released by the Ministry of Home Affairs pertaining to NPR, it is going to be carried out simultaneously along with the Houselisting Census or the first phase of Census 2021. Both of these are scheduled to begin from April 1, 2020 and will be concluded by September 30, 2020.

The instruction manual also states that the enumeration will be carried out simultaneously hence it is most likely that when a census enumerator comes to your doorstep, they will fill out the NPR and census schedules together. As explained above, census data is important for general development and growth of the country, the rationale behind NPR has still not made clear by the government and hence there are some questions in the NPR schedule that can be declined.

Most questions asked in NPR are a part of Census Household schedule (the second phase) which is to be carried out in 2021. Hence, the “need” for an NPR is being constantly questioned by all. Even the government has not put out a clear stance on the same. Previous NPR included collecting biometric data of people which was then incorporated into the Aadhar database. Nowhere is it mentioned in the Rules that NPR is to be conducted periodically or after every 10 years. Since NPR was updated in 2015, the 10-year period gap does not apply here, as claimed by the government earlier. Hence, NPR is being looked at suspiciously by all as being the first step towards NRC (national Register of Citizens). This has been claimed by the government itself on several occasions in the Parliament and the same has been also mentioned in the Annual Report 2018-19 of the Ministryof Home Affairs. Hence, its is important to understand how NPR will be carried out by Census enumerators, what questions you may or may not answer.

Here is a guide on how the simultaneous processes of NPR and Census will be carried out, the questions that will be asked and which of these questions are voluntary, which means you have the right to decline from providing such information.

VII. Census Houselisting Schedule:

These are the questions that form a part of the Census Houselisting Schedule, 2020:

1. Building number (Municipal or local authority or census number).

2. Census house number.

3. Predominant material of floor, wall and roof of the census house.

4. Ascertain use of census house.

5. Condition of the census house.

6. Household number.

7. Total number of persons normally residing in the household:

8. Name of the head of the household.

9. Sex of the head of the household.

10. Whether the head of the household belongs to Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe/Other.

11. Ownership status of the census house.

12. Number of dwelling rooms exclusively in possession of the household.

13. Number of married couple(s) living in the household.

14. Main source of drinking water.

15. Availability of drinking water source.

16. Main source of lighting.

17. Access to latrine.

18. Type of latrine.

19. Waste water outlet.

20. Availability of bathing facility.

21. Availability of kitchen and LPG/PNG connection.

22. Main fuel used for cooking.

23. Radio/Transistor.

24. Television.

25. Access to internet.

26. Laptop/Computer.

27. Telephone/Mobile Phone/Smartphone.

28. Bicycle/Scooter/Motorcycle/Moped.

29. Car/Jeep/Van.

30. Main Cereal consumed in the household.

31. Mobile Number (for census related communications only).

*Source:ORGI Gazette Notification (Period of Houselisting Operation and Questions in Houselisting& Housing Census for Census 2021) dated 07-01-2019

VIII. NPR schedule:

Most of the fields in the NPR schedule will be pre-filled as the data was already collected in 2010 and updated in 2015. Hence, only changes in such data will be recorded. You will have to verify the data already filled in the schedule/questionnaire. As clarified by MoS Home Ministry,G Kishan Reddy, providing information in the NPR is voluntary. This means YOU CAN DECLINE TO PROVIDE ANY INFORMATION asked in the NPR SCHEDULE. However there is a penalty of Rs 1,000 to the head of the family who declines to provide such data.

Most crucially Rule 4(4) of the Citizenship Rules, 2003 empower a lower level government official to conduct a table top exercise and declare you a “DOUBTFUL CITIZEN.” If you decline this data –and the boycott is not by a substantial section of the population, there is every likelihood that you can be declared a Doubtful Citizen!

Census House Number and Household Number 

· Present Address(pre-filled)

· Pin code  (pre-filled)

· Household Status  (available/closed/moved out/could not be enumerated/new)

· Number of members  (pre-filled)

· Name of the person in full (pre-filled)

· Availability of member of the household 

· Relationship to Head 

· Sex  (pre-filled)

· Marital Status

· Date of Birth (pre-filled)

· Place of Birth (pre-filled)

· Nationality as declared (pre-filled)

Note: Nationality recorded is as declared by the respondent. This does not confer any right to Indian Citizenship

· Passport Number (if Indian, only then can they ask for passport number)

The manual states “if the respondent provides passport number…” which can be understood as the information sought is voluntary. This means even if you have a passport you may choose to not provide the passport number.

· Educational Qualification

· Occupation/Activity

· Permanent Residential Address (pre-filled)

· Duration of stay and place of last residence


· Details of father, mother and spouse(Not mandatory)

· Aadhaar Number (if available)(specifically mentions “Aadhaar number is to be collected if provided by the resident voluntarily.)

· Mobile Number (pre-filled)

· Voter ID Card Number (if available)

· Driving License Number (if available)

If any of the above number is not available, it may be left blank. Hence, you will provide this information only if you want to.


About NPR being voluntary

 The Home Ministry faced a lot of opposition from non-BJP ruled statesat the recently concluded NPR-Census meeting regarding some questions included in the NPR especially the one concerning parents’ place of birth. Hence, the Home Ministry has made a statement recently that questions in NPR are voluntary.

Hence, it is important to note that while House listing Census questions should be answered but questions in NPR need not be answered. It is completely up to the individual whether to provide the information. Although, most set of data in the NPR schedule is going to be pre-filled, you can verify it or choose not to verify it.

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