The 2021 Census and National Population Register exercises will be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Hindu reported on Saturday, quoting two unidentified government officials. The National Population Register exercise was supposed to begin from April 1 and end on September 30.

The two government officials told The Hindu that the two exercises will not go ahead, as the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has itself given directives to limit mass contact. However, the Centre is yet to issue any formal order on the postponement of the exercises.

President Ram Nath Kovind was supposed to be the first Indian to be enumerated in the exercises. However, Kovind’s schedule has been cleared and he will not meet any members of the public.

As first reported by, the NPR is the first step to creating an all-India National Register of Citizens which would identify undocumented migrants residing in India. On December 24 last year, the Centre had approved Rs 3,941 crore for updating the NPR across the country and Rs 8,754.23 crore for conducting the 2021 Census.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had on Friday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to postpone the decennial Census exercise and all related activities this year as the country confronts the escalating coronavirus pandemic.

On March 18, the Delhi government had written to Census Commissioner of India Vivek Joshi, pointing out that a “high state” of alert had been declared in the National Capital Territory and the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, invoked. The letter said that since Census enumerators will go from home to home to collect data, the spread of the coronavirus might be exacerbated.

The total number of positive COVID-19 cases in India rose to 271 on Saturday, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research. At least four people have died in the country so far. The government as well as medical experts have advised social distancing, and thereby avoiding large gatherings, as one of the major preventive measures. With this in mind, several states in India have virtually shut down to tackle the crisis. Educational institutions, and public spaces such as eateries, malls, gyms and swimming pools have been closed till the end of the month.