There is a need to update the National Population Register (NPR) again to incorporate the changes due to birth, death and migration for which demographic and other particulars of each family and individual are to be collected, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has said in its 2021-22 annual report published on November 7, 2022.
The NPR, first prepared in 2010 and updated in 2015 by collecting information of all usual residents of the country has been opposed by many Opposition-ruled States as the register, according to Citizenship Rules 2003 is the first step towards compilation of a National Register of Citizens (NRC). The Union government has clarified on multiple occasions that there was no proposal to compile the NRC as of now.
The report said that 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,” MHA said. The NPR that has a database of 115 crore residents is to be updated along with the first phase of Census that has been indefinitely postponed due to COVID-19.
MHA said NPR could be updated through self-enumeration as it is proposed to allow residents to update their own data fields after following some authentication protocols on a web portal.
The report, a compilation of all the achievements and functions of the ministry, however, does not mention the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA). The legislation passed in 2019 that fast-tracks the citizenship of six non-Muslim undocumented communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who entered India before December 31, 2014 is yet to be implemented as the rules haven’t been framed yet. MHA’s annual 2020-21 report had said that CAA is a “compassionate and ameliorative legislation” which does not apply to Indian citizens and “therefore, it does not in any way take away or abridge the rights of any Indian citizen.”
After the CAA was passed, there were apprehensions that if and when a country-wide NRC is done, non-Muslims excluded from the proposed citizens’ register will benefit while excluded Muslims will have to prove their citizenship. The government has denied that CAA and NRC are linked. As many as 83 persons were killed in protest and riots linked to CAA/NPR/NRC from December 2019-March 2020 in Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Meghalaya and Delhi after the CAA was passed.
In the COVID-hit year of 2021, from April-December, as many as 1,414 citizenship certificates were granted to members of non-Muslim communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, the report said.
The report said that the Central government delegated its powers to grant Indian citizenship by registration or naturalisation with respect of foreigners belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Christian or Parsi community from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who entered India on valid passport and visa to Collectors of 29 districts and Home Secretaries of nine States. “The delegation (of powers) will speed up the process of granting Indian citizenship to aforesaid category of migrants as the decision would be taken at local level,” the report said.
As many as 2,439 Long-Term Visas (LTVs) were granted by MHA for minority communities from three neighbouring countries between March-December 2021. “This includes Pakistan (2,193), Afghanistan (237) and Bangladesh (9),” the report said. LTV is a precursor to Indian citizenship.