The Centre is on track to push the 2021 Census to 2022 on account of the country’s continuing preoccupation with COVID-19, a senior government official has told The Hindu .
“Our hands are full dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic,” the official stated, pointing out that first it was the measures taken to deal with the pandemic and now the massive vaccination programme underway.
The first phase of the census — House Listing & Housing Census — and the updating of the National Population Register (NPR) were initially to be rolled out in some States on April 1, 2020, but were postponed due to the pandemic .
The exercise was to have been conducted in two phases — House Listing and Housing Census from April to September 2020 and Population Enumeration from February 9 to February 28, 2021.
The office of the Registrar General, in reply to a Right To Information (RTI) query from The Hindu filed in November, said the schedule or the questionnaire of the NPR was “being finalised” and the information about the expected date of first phase of the Census was “not available.”
The entire process had become controversial after Parliament approved the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in December 2019 that sought to give citizenship to persecuted minorities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.
However, the rules required for implementing the CAA have not been framed so far — more than a year after the passage of this key legislation pushed through by the Modi government in the teeth of strong opposition. Diplomatic sources believe that strong opposition from Bangladesh is one of the factors that led to the CAA remaining on hold.
Tens of thousands of people had taken to the streets across the country protesting the Centre’s decision to update the NPR, which is considered the basis for preparation of a national register of citizens (NRC) that could potentially exclude millions of people born in India. Indian Muslim citizens questioned why they had to prove their citizenship all over again.
Many young leaders, who took part in the protests, against the CAA and NPR process, now face sedition charges. Several State Assemblies had also passed resolutions against the NPR and NRC.
On January 9 last year, the Registrar General notified the 31 columns for which enumerators would have sought responses during the House listing and Housing Census.
Citizenship Rules framed in the year 2003 hold that the NPR is the first step towards compilation of National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) or NRC. Data for an NPR was first collected in 2010 and then updated in 2015. Some States had objected to additional questions to be asked in the fresh NPR such as “date and place of birth of father and mother, last place of residence and mother tongue”.