The Sunday Story The Supreme Court’s latest order on Aadhaar card seems to have little bearing on the ongoing enrolment in the National Population Register (NPR). The reason is simple: it has no link with entitlements.

The Supreme Court’s latest order on Aadhaar card seems to have little bearing on the ongoing enrolment in the National Population Register (NPR). The reason is simple: it has no link with entitlements.

Also, it is business as-usual continues because it is mandatory for every “usual resident,” more so for every citizen, to complete registration, as per the Citizenship Act and Rules. (Anyone who has resided in an area for six months or who intends to reside in the area for six months or more is a “usual resident,” as per the official definition).

Besides, the present controversy is not over the legality of the NPR exercise, which, a senior official points out, is on solid footing and carried out as per law. The official also adds that through the NPR process, one can get an Aadhaar number.

Though the process covers the entire country, it is more intensive in 14 States and two Union Territories, which are called ‘NPR States,’ which means that people in these States and Union Territories can get Aadhaar numbers only through the NPR. For 14 other States, four Union Territories and the National Capital Territory of Delhi, one gets an Aadhaar number through the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). Though Andhra Pradesh strictly comes under the second category of States, some districts have been assigned to the Census authorities for enabling people to get Aadhaar numbers.

The census official says there is a strict procedure in place to ensure that “unwanted” persons are not included. When house-listing and housing census, forming part of the first phase of Census 2011, were carried out in April-September 2010, enumerators, who were government servants, collected data from families concerned and took their signatures. The idea is to enable the authorities to prosecute those who furnished false information.

As the second step in the NPR operations, what is taking place now in several parts of the country is capture of biometric details of every resident such as iris scans and 10 fingerprints, besides photograph. These details have to be collected in the presence of government staff. Once the enrolment drive is over, lists of residents will be displayed in the respective areas for claims and objections. They will also be scrutinised by local officials, in addition to placing them in meetings of ‘gram sabhas’ and ward committees. All these stages are aimed at ensuring authenticity, the official explains.

Procedural flaw

In rural areas, enrolment is being done village by village and taluk by taluk, while in urban areas, wards are covered in phases. As per the original plan, the distribution of ‘know your resident +’ forms should precede capture of biometric details. There is nothing to show that this has indeed been carried out in many places as per procedure.

But, the official says that keeping in mind the increasing public pressure on his department to complete the coverage quickly, special counters have been opened.

Asked about the deadline for completing the exercise, the official merely said his department keeps setting suitable deadlines. But he stresses that the entire operations have to be carried out with the cooperation of officials of the State governments. “There are difficult States and border States,” he points out.

Also, there are some legitimate issues relating to execution. In Tamil Nadu, the authorities find it difficult to get enough qualified data-entry operators in cities such as Chennai and Coimbatore as they are deterred by the high cost of living. In West Bengal, where the enrolment had to be suspended for three months owing to panchayat elections, there are instances of discrepancies in postal identification number (PIN) codes, the resolution of which is a pre-requisite before the exercise can begin. Efforts are on to sort these out, to complete enrolment expeditiously.

(ramakrishnan.t@thehindu.co.in)

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