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Kerala

Discussions On NPR Are On, Says Minister In Parliament

No decision taken on national level NRIC

Rejimon Kuttappan

Rejimon Kuttappan

Discussion with the states having concerns regarding the preparation of National Population Register (NPR) is on, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, said on Tuesday.

The minister was responding in Lok Sabha to a question raised by three parliamentarians.

The parliamentarians had asked whether the union government is aware that some states including Kerala have put the works related to updating NPR on hold.

The NPR is a register of the usual residents of the country. It is prepared at the local (village/sub-Town), sub-district, district, state and national level under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

Every usual resident of India must register in the NPR. A usual resident is defined for NPR as a person who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.

Last month, Kerala, West Bengal, and Rajasthan had refused to roll out NPR. Kerala’s General Administration Department had even directed all its officials to ensure that the National Population Register (NPR) is not mentioned while sending communications on Census 2021.

A letter by a Kerala Tahsildar had appeared on social media stating rolling out of the NPR process. Following the letter, the principal secretary of the General Administration Department had to notify district collectors to take stern disciplinary action against officials who fail to follow the directions.

And in an answer to MK Raghavan, a parliamentarian from Kerala, the minister said that an instruction manual for updating of NPR 2020 for enumerators and supervisors has been prepared.

“The NPR updating will be undertaken through the house to house enumeration for collection of specified particulars relating to each family and individual. The respondent has to provide the information true to the best of his knowledge and belief. Aadhar number is collected voluntarily,” the minister added.

When Kodikunnil Suresh, parliamentarian from Kerala, asked whether the government has made it mandatory to share details of Aadhaar, passport number, voter ID and driving license and the same are to be compulsorily collected by the enumerators of the NPR updating in the country, the minister said that the respondent has to provide the information for NPR updating true to the best of his knowledge and belief.

Additionally, the minister said that the demographic and other particulars of each family and individual are to be updated/collected during the exercise of updating of NPR, however, no document is to be collected during this exercise.

The data for NPR was collected in 2010 with the house listing phase of the Census of India 2011. The updating of this data was done during 2015 by conducting door to door survey.

The digitisation of the updated information has been completed and now it has been decided to update the NPR along with the house listing phase of Census 2021 from April to September 2020 in all the States/UTs except Assam.

Gazette notification to this effect had also been published by the union government.

Even though the NPR and Census processes are carried under the supervision of a single office, the Office of Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner, both are two different processes.

The Census is an exercise carried out under the Census Act, 1948. Census data is based on self-declaration made by persons without verification.

Meanwhile, NPR is carried out as per the 2003 Citizenship Rules. Under these Rules, a person must share the demographic data for the preparation of NPR.

No Plan For NRC

Interestingly, the minister also added that till now, the government has not taken any decision to prepare National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) at the national level.

It is for the first time the government is giving in writing that it has not yet decided on NRC even though its leaders have been talking about implementing NRC publicly since November 2019.

The NRC is a register containing names of all Indian citizens. It was first prepared in 1951. The 1951 NRC list has been updated for Assam, which has had a longstanding foreigner problem, to remove undocumented migrants and stop the further inflow.

The updating process of NRC started in the year 2013 in Assam under the strict monitoring and supervision of the Supreme Court of India. On December 31, 2017, a part of a draft of the NRC list was released and subsequently on July 30, 2018, the complete draft of NRC was released.

Interestingly, the Assam NRC process excluded nearly two million persons. There are reports that the process was riddled with flaws, leading to arbitrary exclusions.

The 2003 Citizenship Rules also create a category of "doubtful citizen". There are no guidelines mentioned as to how this unfettered discretion to mark 'doubtful citizens' is to be exercised.

The Rules themselves say nothing about what happens if you are found to be doubtful. But the amendments made to the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order 1964 in 2019 empower a District Magistrate to refer a 'doubtful citizen' to a Foreigners Tribunal.

The NRC was part of the BJP manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha election. BJP leaders had campaigned then that if they come to power, they will implement NRC.

Fearing the loss of citizenship through NPR and NRC process, minority communities and youth are protesting all over India to force the government to roll back NRC, Citizenship Amendment Act and NPR.