NPR on backburner, questions yet to be finalised

The Registrar General of India said in its response to an RTI application that the NPR schedule has not been finalised


The National Population Register (NPR) that was supposed to start getting updated in April 2020, as part of the houselisting or the first phase of Census 2021 got delayed due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The preparations to conduct a door to door survey for a less popular or lesser known population register were in full swing.

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. 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. Hence, the NPR exercise was being followed so closely by the news media. When the pandemic delayed the plans, the focus shifted to damage control but NPR is only on the back burner for now. As per a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by The Hindu the Registrar General of India has responded saying that the expected date for first phase of Census 2021 is “not available”.

Even as the exercise was set to begin in April, the RGI has stated in its RTI reply that the schedule or the questionnaire is yet to be finalised.

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 new questions incorporated in the NPR schedule 2021 were included in the instruction manual released by Ministry of Home Affairs. 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 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. Of course, that does not mean that leaving that question unanswered will keep you out of trouble, but it could keep you out of the NRC for failing to provide such information.

The close lens on NPR is not without reason. As has been contended by people opposing Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 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.


Why the CAA+NPR+NRC is a toxic cocktail for everyone
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