The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has introduced a new approach for updating the National Population Register (NPR), which is self-updation through a web portal. The MHA’s Annual report of 2019-2020 makes mention of, among other things, the NPR.
The annual report states that the NPR was first conducted in 2010 under the provisions of the Citizenship Rules, 2003. In 2015, a few fields such as Name, Gender, Date and Place of Birth, Place of Residence and Father’s and Mother’s name were updated and Aadhaar, Mobile and Ration Card Numbers were collected. The document justifies the need to update it by stating that changes due to birth, death and migration, need to be updated.
The annual report further states that the NPR will be updated in 3 ways, one of which is to update it by yourself on a web portal. The other two modes are by house to house enumeration in paper format and mobile mode.
It clearly states that no documents or biometrics will be collected during the updation. A report by The Hindu suggests that the online process will begin a month before the door-to-door surveys and residents will get a reference code that they could mention to the field enumerator at the time of her/his visit, a government official told the newspaper. The details of the respondent would get displayed on a mobile application developed in-house for conducting the Census exercise but no “biometrics or documents” would be collected. These details would then be stored in the system for future use, reports The Hindu.
The annual report states that a pre-test for NPR has been conducted in all states and Union Territories, except Assam. “The demographic and other particulars of each family and individual are to be collected/ updated during the updation exercise of NPR,” says the annual report.
The Cabinet has approved expenditure of Rs. 3,941.35 crore for NPR updation.
Census India has uploaded the houselisting schedule 2021, which is the enumeration done as a first phase of Census and was supposed to be carried out in April 2020, along with NPR. While the houselisting schedule has been duly uploaded and seems to be ready for use, the NPR schedule has not been officially declared by the Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner. It is pertinent to note here that even the houselisting schedule for 2021 was finalised in January 2020 but no official announcement has been made regarding the NPR schedule.
In January 2020, Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner did release the NPR instruction manual directed towards guiding enumerators and state as well as district coordinators for conducting the updation of NPR. It was found that NPR 2020 was seeking information like permanent address, duration of state and place of last residence, details of father, mother and spouse, Aadhaar number, mobile no., Voter ID no., driving license no.
Further, under details of father and mother, their name, date of birth and place of birth is being asked, if they are not already enumerated in the same household. The NPR instruction manual also states that most of the NPR schedule will be pre-filled and one will only have to verify the same.
In February 2020, the Nitish Kumar government of Bihar had demanded that the Centre carry out NPR as per the 2010 schedule and refused to carry out NPR with questions regarding place of birth of mother and father.
After the Census office released the instruction manual, making it clear what questions will be asked during NPR, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) had prepared a detailed document on how to deal with enumerators who would be collecting both census houselisting and NPR data at the same time. The document may be accessed here.
After a national level uproar against questions regarding the place of birth of father and mother, the MHA had taken a stand in Parliament that answering questions in the NPR will be voluntary. However, the NPR section of the Census website still states, “It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR”. Thus, the government’s stand on conducting NPR has not been quite confusing and one expects the central government to clarify its stand before it starts asking people to start filling up NPR schedules.
As many as 13 states and Union Territories had opposed 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.
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 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 detail here.