The first phase of the Census 2021 and updating of the National Population Register – scheduled to take place between April and September – have been postponed in view of the coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Home Affairs said on Wednesday. India began a nationwide lockdown from Tuesday midnight that will end on April 14. The health ministry has so far confirmed 562 coronavirus cases and said that 512 of these are active.

The 2021 Census was scheduled to be conducted in two phases – the House Listing and House Census between April and September and the Population Enumeration in February 2021. Updating of the NPR was scheduled to take place along with the first phase of Census, in all states and Union Territories except Assam.

The Home Ministry said that the decision to postpone the exercise has been taken in accordance with measures taken by the Centre and state governments amid the coronavirus pandemic. “The first phase of Census and the updation of NPR and other related field activities have been postponed till further orders,” the government’s order read.

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.

Also read:

1) De-link Census 2021 from NPR, 190 economists and social scientists tell Centre

2) Amit Shah’s all-India NRC has already begun – with the NPR

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.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his second address to the nation on coronavirus on Tuesday, announced a countrywide lockdown for 21 days - the biggest among all countries hit by the pandemic .Only essential services such as grocery shops, dairies and milk booths, hospitals, nursing homes, police, fire stations and ATMs will continue to work.