The office of the Registrar General of India on Tuesday said that the schedule of the National Population Register, or NPR, was being finalised, reported The Hindu. It also said that no information was available on the expected date of the 2021 Census.
The NPR exercise was scheduled to commence on April 21 but was postponed in view of the coronavirus pandemic. The Hindu had filed a plea under the Right to Information Act, seeking an update on the NPR and information about the date of the first phase of the Census 2021.
House listing and housing census, which form the first part of the Census, was to be rolled out alongside the NPR. It was supposed to start in Lakshadweep, Meghalaya, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the New Delhi Municipal Council regions on April 1. However, the RGI said in its reply that “the schedule of NPR is being finalised.”
Deputy Registrar General AK Samal responded to the RTI saying that disclosure of the Census 2021 process may lead to confusion and affect the work, which is of national importance. “Hence these are not being provided under Section 8 (1) of the RTI Act, 2005,” he stated.
The section prevents from divulging information “which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence.” The Hindu had sought details and meeting minutes of the Conference of the State/Union Territories Chief Secretaries and Administrator held in New Delhi on January 17. It was organised by the Registrar General of India and the census commissioner. Samal had replied that the minutes of the meeting were not prepared and the presentations were for internal use and discussions for Census 2021.
Further, a trial NPR form in 2019 collected details from 30 lakh respondents based on 21 parameters. The form sought details such as the “place of birth of father and mother” and the “last place of residence”, according to the newspaper’s report last year. It also sought other information including, voter ID card, Aadhaar, mobile phone and driving licence numbers. Data collected from earlier exercise in 2010 and 2015 were based on 14 parameters.
“If there are 15 members in the family, the enumerators would give them a prior notice, so that documents of all are available when the field visit is undertaken,” the official told the newspaper. “The enumerator will see the documents.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs, however, refuted the claims. “The story ignores government’s stated position that no individual will be required to submit any document to any authority or enumerator visiting his/her household for NPR survey,” the government said. “Information provided by the individual would be accepted and recorded accordingly.”
Earlier in the year, the home affairs ministry had also told a Parliament panel that it proposed to collect details on questions about date and birthplace of parents in the NPR in order to help in the backend data processing as well as making the data for the questions concerned complete for all households.
Further in February, the Karnataka unit of the BJP had tweeted a video of Muslim women holding up their voter identity cards outside a polling booth in Delhi, and told them to “keep the documents safe” for the National Population Register exercise. The warning came despite repeated assurances by the Narendra Modi government that documents would not be required during the National Population Register process.
About 13 states have opposed the NPR process over its links with the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. As first reported by Scroll.in, the NPR is the first step to creating an all-India National Register of Citizens which would identify undocumented migrants residing in India.
On the other hand, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act grants citizenship based on religion to six undocumented communities, excluding the Muslims, from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014. There is apprehension among people that the CAA, followed by the NRC, will benefit non-Muslims, while excluded Muslims will have to prove their citizenship. The Centre has, however, repeatedly denied that the CAA and the NRC are linked.
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.