Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the first phase of Census 2021 and updating of the National Population Register (NPR) that was to begin on April 1 has been “postponed until further orders”, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, high alert has been declared by the Government of India as well as the States/Union Territories.... Lockdown has also been declared by many State/UT governments,” the MHA said.
On April 1, the Census and the NPR exercise was to be rolled out in Meghalaya, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshwadeep and the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) area. President Ram Nath Kovind was to be the first one to be enumerated for the Census, followed by Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as all of them reside in the NDMC area that comprises Lutyens Delhi.
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The Hindu first reported on March 21 that the Census-NPR exercise was all set to be postponed due to the outbreak.
Other States and UTs had notified different dates for the exercise that entailed door-to-door visit by enumerators and field representatives and was not possible under the ongoing 21-day lockdown, said a senior government official.
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The Census was scheduled to be conducted in two phases — House listing & Housing Census during April-September 2020 and Population Enumeration from February 9-28, 2021. The updating of the NPR was also proposed to be done along with the Phase I of the Census in all the States and UTs, except Assam.
As many as 13 States and UTs have opposed the updating of the NPR.
According to Citizenship Rules 2003, the NPR is the first step towards compilation of a National Register of Citizens (NRC). The modified NPR form is yet to be made public but is likely to include contentious questions on “date and place of birth of father and mother, last place of residence and mother tongue.” NPR was first collected in 2010 and then updated in 2015 without the additional questions.
Passage of CAA
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 passed by Parliament on December 11, allows citizenship on the basis of religion to six undocumented communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.
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There are apprehensions that the CAA, followed by a countrywide NRC, will benefit non-Muslims excluded from the citizens’ register, while excluded Muslims will have to prove their citizenship. The government has denied that the CAA and the NRC are linked. Union Home Minister also assured the Rajya Sabha on March 12 that furnishing information under the NPR was voluntary and none would be marked “doubtful” citizens.