There is a need to update the National Population Register to incorporate changes due to birth, death and migration, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs said in its annual report released on Monday.
The National Population Register is a list of all the usual residents of India. It was first prepared in 2010. In 2015, information in some fields such as name, gender and date and place of birth was updated. Also, details on Aadhaar, mobile and ration numbers were collected.
The ministry, in its annual report for 2021-’22, said that the government had decided to update the register again in the whole of the country, except Assam, from April to September 2020 along with the house listing phase of the Census 2021. “Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, however, the work of NPR updation and other related field activities have been postponed until further orders,” the report said.
The ministry said that the government proposes to allow residents to update their data after following some authentication protocols on a web portal. It also clarified that no documents or biometrics will be collected during the process.
“The Union Government has already approved the expenditure of [Rs.] 3941.35 crore for updation of NPR,” the home ministry said.
The National Population Register is the first step to creating an all-India National Register of Citizens, which will identify undocumented migrants residing in the country.
In August 2019, Assam had published an updated National Register of Citizens to distinguish Indian citizens from undocumented immigrants living in the state. More than 19 lakh persons in Assam were left out of the final list of the National Register of Citizens – around 6% of Assam’s entire population.
In November 2019, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had announced in Parliament that a National Register of Citizens will be created for India after the Citizenship (Amendment) Act comes into force. The law provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014.
The 2021-’22 annual report of the home ministry does not make any mention of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
In November 2021, Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai told the Lok Sabha that the government had not decided on a nationwide exercise to prepare the National Register of Citizens.
The government defends the National Register of Citizens as a mechanism to identify undocumented migrants, particularly Bangladeshis. But critics fear that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act when used in conjunction with the National Register of Citizens will allow the government to exclude Muslims, turning them into non-citizens. The government and its supporters have sought to insist that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens are not linked.