Governance

Cabinet approves National Population Register update

The exercise will be held in 2020 from April to September, along with the house-listing phase of Census 2021

 
By Kundan Pandey
Last Updated: Tuesday 24 December 2019
Government workers conducting the 2011 Census. Photo: http://www.censusindia.gov.in
Government workers conducting the 2011 Census. Photo: http://www.censusindia.gov.in Government workers conducting the 2011 Census. Photo: http://www.censusindia.gov.in

Amid nationwide protest about the recently passed Citizenship (Amendment) Act [CAA], the Union Cabinet approved a proposal to update the National Population Register (NPR) on December 24, 2019.

The exercise will be held in 2020 from April to September, along with the house-listing phase of Census 2021, said Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar. It will be conducted in the entire country except Assam, which is already undergoing the process to draft a National Register of Citizens (NRC) to identify illegal migrants.

Javadekar underscored that the NPR was launched by the Manmohan Singh government a decade ago. He claimed that the register won’t store biometrics.

However, the Census India website still maintains that “the database would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars.”

Earlier, the NPR was collated along with the house-listing phase of Census 2011. It was reportedly updated in 2015 via a door-to-door survey.

The NPR’s stated objective is to create a comprehensive identity database of people residing in India. The database will be prepared through house-to-house enumeration.

The register’s data will be different from the Census, which in 2011 had 29 items seeking information on age, sex, marital status, occupation, children, mother tongue, disability, birthplace, etc. But, NPR just focuses on demographic and biometric data.

The preliminary work of NPR has already begun in several states. Some like West Bengal and Kerala though have announced to stop all activities related to NPR.

However, the Centre has control over the decision, which talks about NPR. Section 14 (A) of the Citizenship Act, 1955, mandates that the Union government can compulsorily register every citizen of the country and issue a national identity card to the individual. It was inserted in the Act in 2004.

The Union Cabinet sanctioned Rs 8,754.23 crore for the Census and Rs 3,941.35 crore for NPR, Javdekar said.

This comes amid countrywide protest demonstrations against CAA and a countrywide NRC. Many took to the streets after Parliament passed the CAA. Many have alleged that the NPR could be a potential first phase of NRC thus several states have been under pressure to take a stand on whether they would permit NPR.

The NPR was introduced for getting real-time data, without having to wait for 10 years, said Shrinivas Goli, a research fellow at University of Western Australia. "It helps people understand trends like migration. But if it is connected to the NRC and CAA, the idea will be defeated," he added. 

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