360 degree approach to dispel rumours about NPR, MHA tells House panel

First phase of Census-House listing & Housing Census and NPR were to be rolled out in some States on April 1 last but was postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19

Updated - February 02, 2021 09:03 pm IST

Published - February 02, 2021 09:01 pm IST - New Delhi

The enumerators collect details of fishermen families on National Marine Fisheries Census in 2016. File

The enumerators collect details of fishermen families on National Marine Fisheries Census in 2016. File

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has informed a parliamentary panel that “right kind of messaging will be done to tackle the miscommunication and rumours around NPR and Census.”

The first phase of Census-House listing & Housing Census and the National Population Register (NPR) were to be rolled out in some States on April 1 last but was postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19.

“A 360 degree approach for communicating the right and clear message on the NPR has been planned to be followed. All kinds of media, i.e. social media, AV [audio visual], digital, outdoor, print and word of mouth publicity tools are part of the planned media strategy. Right kind of messaging will be done to tackle the miscommunication and rumours around NPR and Census 2021,” the MHA was quoted in the 226th action taken report by government on the recommendations/observations contained in the 224th on demands for grants (2020-21).

The report was presented to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu in December 2020 and a copy was laid on the table of the House on Tuesday.

Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that “the demographic and other particulars of each family and individual were to be updated/collected during the exercise of update of NPR” and “no document is to be collected during this exercise.”

He said, “The government was in discussions with the States having concerns in regard to the preparation of the NPR. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the first phase of Census, update of the NPR and other related field activities have been postponed”.

‘Fear among people’

The parliamentary committee, headed by Congress’s Anand Sharma, while discussing the demands for grants report on February18 , 2020 observed that there was a lot of dissatisfaction and fear among people regarding the coming NPR and Census.

To this, the MHA responded in one of the subsequent meetings, “As per the provisions contained in Section 15 of the Census Act, 1948, all individual level information collected in Census are confidential. In Census, only aggregated data are released at various administrative levels. Questionnaires for Census along with that of NPR have been tested at Pre-test conducted successfully across the country. It has been clarified at various levels in Government time and again that till now no decision has been taken to create National Register of Indian citizen.”

The committee was of the view that Aadhaar data should be used in the coming Census to reduce the duplicacy and wastage of expenditure.

The MHA replied that “NPR was envisaged as a database containing comprehensive demographic information as well as biometric information with photograph, ten fingerprints and two iris images of all usual residents. The scheme of allotting unique identity number to all usual residents i.e. Aadhaar number was planned by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) using the demographic and biometric information. Subsequently, Aadhaar number has been developed as a separate database, which is being used only for de-duplication purpose and authentication of beneficiaries of various Government schemes.”

The MHA further said, “Aadhaar is individual data. In Aadhaar database, consolidated details of a family is not available nor from this database can a family structure be created without visiting each household and collecting information such as relationship among family members. However, NPR database is created by collecting family-wise data and it can be strengthened by linking Aadhaar to each member. Various welfare schemes of State and Central Governments are generally family based for which NPR data may be used.”

The NPR’s link with the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and yet to be implemented Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, has been opposed by many States. Citizenship Rules framed in year 2003 says that the NPR is the first step towards compilation of a National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) or the NRC. The NPR was first collected in 2010 and updated in 2015.

The CAA passed by Parliament on December 11, 2019, allows citizenship on basis of religion to six undocumented communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who entered India on or before December 31, 2014. There are apprehensions that the CAA, followed by a countrywide NRC, will benefit non-Muslims excluded from the proposed citizens’ register, while excluded Muslims will have to prove their citizenship. The government has denied that the CAA and the NRC are linked.

More than 60 persons died in protest and violence that erupted after the CAA was passed in December 2019.

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