Field trials for Census-NPR to begin soon

Updated - March 04, 2021 12:05 am IST

Published - March 03, 2021 08:05 pm IST - New Delhi

The Government-appointed Census workers on duty during night, counting urban homeless living around religious places in Kalasipalyam, on pavements, under flyovers, and on railway platforms, during the Census 2011, in Bangalore on March 01, 2011.

The Government-appointed Census workers on duty during night, counting urban homeless living around religious places in Kalasipalyam, on pavements, under flyovers, and on railway platforms, during the Census 2011, in Bangalore on March 01, 2011. Photo:

The Registrar-General of India (RGI) is preparing to conduct field trials of the first phase of the Census and the National Population Register (NPR) using a mobile application in all the States and Union Territories, a senior government official told The Hindu .

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

The first phase involving house listing and housing census, along with updating the NPR, was scheduled from April 1 last year, but was postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic. It is unlikely that the exercise will be conducted this year as the vaccination drive is still at an early stage.

However, the officials are planning to conduct pre-tests or field trials through the app in one block each of every district, which is expected to cover 50 to 60 households.

The app will contain questionnaires on house listing and housing census and the NPR, the official said.

“The dates for conducting the Census exercise have not been finalised yet. But the enumerators will have to be trained in using the app. Many enumerators are young schoolteachers who are expected to use the app instead of the paper schedule [form]. There will be incentives for the electronic form,” the official said.

The second phase of the Census is population enumeration.

The RGI, on January 9, 2020, notified the 31 columns for which the enumerators will seek response for the house listing and housing census.

The questions include whether the respondent has access to LPG or piped natural gas connection; owns a radio, transistor, television, laptop, computer, telephone, mobile phone or smartphone; and has access to the Internet.

The questions for the NPR have not been made public yet, but the pre-test conducted in 2019 included additional questions such as the date and place of birth of father and mother, last place of residence and mother tongue, Aadhaar (optional), voter ID card, mobile phone and driving licence numbers. The Opposition-ruled States have expressed apprehensions over the additional questions.

Electronic database

In 2010 and 2015, the NPR collected details on 14 parameters only. It already has an electronic database of more than 119 crore residents.

“The app will have the NPR schedule also. Before it is rolled out, the app has to be tested for glitches, and field trials are to be conducted,” the official said.

On February 9, Vivek Joshi, RGI and Census Commissioner of India, chaired a virtual meeting of the Directors of Census Operations of all States to review the preparations for the coming Census where the field trials using the app were discussed.

The Director of Census Operations of one of the States who attended the meeting told The Hindu , “The app has been improvised after the 2019 trials, and the field trials will be held afresh. We are awaiting directions from the RGI.”

On February 10, Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai informed the Rajya Sabha that “an app for the collection of data and a Census portal for the management and monitoring of various Census-related activities has been developed”.

“Instruction manuals for enumerators and other Census functionaries have been prepared. A pre-test of the Census was undertaken from August 12, 2019 to September 30, 2019 in selected areas of all the States and Unions Territories to test the Census questionnaire and methodology,” he said.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced on February 1 that ₹ 3,768 crore had been allocated for Census in the financial year 2021-22.

The NPR exercise has been opposed by many States and citizens groups because the Citizenship Rules 2003 link it to the creation of a National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) or National Register of Citizens (NRC). Coupled with the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in 2019, which excludes Muslims, fears of an NPR-NRC brought thousands of people on the streets in protest. The government has denied that the NRC and the NPR are linked.

As many as 69 people were killed in various incidents in the days following the passage of the CAA by Parliament on December 11, 2019. The CAA allows citizenship on basis of religion to undocumented non-Muslim communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

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