The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has declared computer resources related Census and National Population Register (NPR) to be ‘Critical Information Infrastructure (CII)’ and ‘protected system’ under the Information Technology Act, 2000. This means that any tampering or unauthorised access to the data associated with Census applications, NPR database or the data centres of the Registrar General of India (RGI) will be punishable with ten years imprisonment.
Under the IT Act’s section 70, CII is defined as:
“computer resource, the incapacitation or destruction of which, shall have debilitating impact on national security, economy, public health or safety.”
The National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) is the nodal agency for taking measures to protect the nation’s critical information infrastructure and is mandated to guard CIIs from “unauthorised access, modification, use, disclosure, disruption, incapacitation or distraction through coherent coordination, synergy and raising information security awareness among all stakeholders”, under the IT Act. The agency monitors national-level threats to CII.
Its functions include protection of CII, ensuring compliance, developing capabilities for real time warning system and facilitate sharing of information on emerging threats, cyber-attacks and so on.
It basically means that the NPR and Census database will be stored in duly protected computer systems that ought not to be tampered with and if tampered with it will amount to a serious offence with a punishment of up to 10 years and also a penalty. Undoubtedly, information collected during Census is imperative and any breach to it is a matter of national security and the MHA has –through a simple notification –now brought the controversial and un-tested process of the NPR —on the same footing as the Census.
The MHA notification may be read here:
The Government prepared a National Population Register (NPR) of all the ‘usual residents’ in the country in 2010 by collecting specific information of each resident. This was under the United Progressive Alliance (I) government). The NPR was mandated through ‘Rules’ brought in in 2003 to the Citizenship Act, 1955. These Rules have not been extensively debated or discussed in Parliament. The previously conducted NPR in 2010 included the collection of biometric data of people which was then incorporated into the Aadhar database. However, the 2003 Rules nowhere mention that the NPR is or must be conducted periodically or after every 10 years.
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 latest Annual report of MHA states that there is need to update NPR soon in order to “incorporate the changes due to birth, death and migration”. Concerns about such fields being added have raised legitimate concerns of this being a backdoor exercise in collected documented data on individuals which may or will thereafter be used by the State to declare the citizenship of individuals ‘doubtful.’ The MHA had then resolved to update the NPR database in the entire country except the State of Assam along with the House listing Phase of Census 2021 during April to September, 2020. This process got delayed due to outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
For updating the NPR database, a three-pronged approach would be adopted. It will include
Self-updating wherein it is proposed to allow residents to update their own data fields after following some authentication protocols on a web portal,
Updating of NPR data in paper format and
As per the report, a pre-test on NPR updation was undertaken in the selected areas of all the States/UTs. It further clarifies that demographics and other particulars will be collected during this updation exercise and no documents or biometrics would be collected. The report however does not mention a specific date or time period for carrying out Census and NPR in the near future.
The Annual Report may be read here:
Census vs. NPR
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. An electronic database of more than 119 crore usual residents of the country have already been created under NPR which was created in 2010 along with House listing and Housing Census 2010. The Government of India has also stated that the NPR Database has been updated in 2015-16 in all States/UTs (except Assam and Meghalaya) to make a comprehensive resident database.
The NPR process is being conducted under the Citizenship Act 1955(The Citizenship Amendment Act 2019) while Censes 2021 is as per Census Act 1948.
NPR is the first step towards creation of NRC. This is not only stated in the 2003 Rules. This has also been admitted by the government in Parliament and the MHA’s Annual Report 2018- 19. The updation of the NPR can therefore be considered to be the first phase of the start of the NRC, a process that precedes a full-blown process of an All India NRC.
The MHA and GOI have faced stiff opposition from both the people and the state governments of non-BJP states, articulated at the recently concluded meeting on the NPR-Census. These objections related to four specific questions included in the NPR-NRC especially the one concerning parents’ places and dates of birth. Pushed into a corner, the Home Ministry was compelled to utter the truth, that answering questions in the NPR is purely voluntary.
The NPR-NRC link is a reality
When the NPR data is collected, along with the Census Data, it seeks 21 separate categories of information.
As per Clause 4(3) of the 2003 Citizenship Rules, “For the purposes of preparation and inclusion in the Local Register of Indian Citizens, the particulars collected of every family and individual in the Population Register shall be verified and scrutinized by the Local Registrar.”
The population register shall be verified and scrutinized by the local registrar. During the verification process, the particulars of “such individual” as shows Citizenship is doubtful shall entered by the local registrar with an appropriate remark “doubtful Citizen” in the list of the population register for further inquiry!
Every person will be given opportunity of being heard by the sub district or taluka registrar of Citizen Registration. The sub district or taluka registrar shall finalise his finding within 90 days of entry. Others are empowered to “raise objections” to you, your family or anyone else being included in the NPR-NRC list. Thereafter, the data is placed in the public domain for inviting any “objection”. The Order of the Registrar is final: whether you or any person is included or excluded from the National Population Register.
Therefore, one thing is clear: the NPR is the first stage of the All India NRC. Or the NPR is a back door process to launch the All India NRC.
According to the official website of the Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India, the demographic particulars to be collected via NPR are listed as follows:
Name of person
Relationship to head of household
Spouse’s name (if married)
Date of Birth
Place of birth
Nationality (as declared)
Present address of usual residence
Duration of stay at present address
Permanent residential address
There is a special note in the “nationality” section which reads “Nationality recorded is as declared by the respondent. This does not confer any right to Indian Citizenship”. There is also a special note under the “mother tongue” section, that says, “If you have reasons to suspect that in any area due to any organised movement, the mother tongue is not being truthfully returned, you should record the mother tongue as actually returned by the respondent and make a report to your supervisory officers for verification.”
A detailed document on Census vs. NPR and questions asked during these exercises may be read here.