National Population Register | Centre likely to allow residents to fill their NPR details online

No ‘biometrics or documents’ will be collected, says Home Ministry report.

Updated - March 15, 2021 09:50 am IST

Published - March 14, 2021 10:02 pm IST - New Delhi

The Centre will allow residents to fill columns in the National Population Register (NPR) forms on their own through online mode, a month before door-to-door enumeration by Census officials starts. After filling the form online, residents will get a reference code that they could mention to the field enumerator at the time of her/his visit, according to a senior government official.

The details of the respondent would get displayed on a mobile application developed in-house for conducting the Census exercise but no “biometrics or documents” would be collected. These details would then be stored in the system for future use.

The first phase of the decennial Census exercise — the Houselisting and Housing Census along with updating the NPR was scheduled to be held from April 1, 2020. It was postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is unlikely to be held this year.

The second and main phase of Census — the population enumeration — was to be concluded by March 5 this year.

Also read: Field trials for Census-NPR to begin soon

As reported by The Hindu , residents were to be given an option to self enumerate only in the second phase (the population enumeration).

As per MHA’s annual report, the option will now be made available for updating the NPR also . The NPR earlier collated in the years 2010 and 2015 has an electronic database of more than 119 crore residents.

According to the recently published Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) annual report for the year 2019-20, there will be a three-pronged approach for updating the NPR database — self updating, wherein it is proposed to allow residents to update their own data fields after following some authentication protocols in a web portal; updating of NPR data in paper format; and mobile mode.

The report said that a “pre-test” on NPR updation has been undertaken in the selected areas of the States and Union Territories except Assam, along with the pre-test of the Census. “The demographic and other particulars of each family and individual are to be collected/ updated during the updation exercise of NPR. No documents or biometrics would be collected during updation of NPR,” the 2019-20 report said.

Also read: Census, National Population Register unlikely in 2020

As reported, the pretest for the first phase of the Census and the NPR, involving 30 lakh respondents, was conducted from August 12-September 20, 2019.

The report said that the government prepared the NPR of all the “usual residents” in the country in 2010 by collecting specific information of each resident. “The NPR is prepared under various provisions of the Citizenship Rules, 2003, framed under the Citizenship Act, 1955. In 2015, a few fields such as name, gender, date and place of birth, place of residence and father’s and mother’s name were updated and Aadhaar, mobile and ration card numbers were collected. To incorporate the changes due to birth, death and migration, there is a need to update it again,” the report said.

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

The Hindu Explains |  What connects the NPR, NRIC and Census?

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced on February 1 that ₹3,768 crore has been allocated for the Census in the financial year 2021-22. Though no separate budget for the NPR has been allocated this fiscal, in the financial year 2019-20, ₹3941.35 crore was approved for updating the NPR.

Around 30 lakh enumerators — government officials and government school teachers — will each be assigned the responsibility to collect details from about 650-800 people through both online and offline modes.

The Registrar General of India (RGI) is presently conducting field trials of the first phase of the Census and the NPR through the mobile application in one block each, comprising 50-60 households, in all the States and Union Territories.

Understanding the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019

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 and civil society groups. Citizenship Rules framed in the year 2003 say that the NPR is the first step towards the compilation of the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) or the NRC. The CAA passed by the Parliament on December 11, 2019 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. Though the government has denied that the CAA and NRC are linked, 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.

MHA informed the Lok Sabha on February 4, 2020 that “till now, the government has not taken any decision to prepare the NRIC at the national level”.

Also read: National Population Register data first collected in 2010, updated in 2015

However, in March 2020, the MHA filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court that preparation of NRC is a “necessary exercise for any sovereign country for mere identification of citizens from non-citizens”.

The MHA submitted before the Supreme Court that it is “the responsibility entrusted on the Central government “to identify/detect illegal migrants and thereafter, follow the due process of law”.

At the peak of anti-CAA/NRC/NPR protest in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a public rally on December 22 in Delhi that “there had been no discussion, no talk on an NRC for India since his government had taken power in 2014”.

On December 9 the same year, Union Home Minister Amit Shah told the Parliament that “there is no need to create a background for NRC, we are clear that NRC ought to be done in this country, our manifesto is the background”.

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