The Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday told a parliamentary panel that it has not taken any decision on nationwide implementation of the National Register of Citizens yet, PTI reported, citing a report tabled in Parliament. The National Register of Citizens is a proposed nationwide exercise to identify undocumented immigrants.

“It has been clarified at various levels in government time and again that till now no decision has been taken to create National Register of Indian citizen,” the home ministry told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs headed by Congress leader Anand Sharma.

This came on the same day when the Centre informed the Lok Sabha that a parliamentary committee on subordinate legislation had granted it extension till April 9 to frame the Citizenship Amendment Act rules. The Act was notified on December 12, 2019.

In 2019, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said that the implementation of National Register of Citizens would follow the citizenship law.

The latter 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. Around 70 people were killed in protests that erupted across the country after the Act was passed. These stopped in March 2020 after the nationwide lockdown was in place to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

NRC had been carried out in Assam in August 2019, resulting in the exclusion of 19 lakh people. Critics fear that the CAA when used in conjunction with the NRC will allow the government to force many Muslims to prove their citizenship. The government and its supporters have sought to insist that the CAA and the NRC are not linked.

The parliamentary committee had earlier observed that there is a lot of dissatisfaction and fear among the citizens regarding the National Population Register and Census. The NPR is the first step to creating an all-India National Register of Citizens which would identify undocumented migrants residing in India.

In an Action Taken Report tabled on Tuesday by the government in the Rajya Sabha, it said, “All individual level information collected in Census (is) confidential. In Census, only aggregated data are released at various administrative levels...It has been clarified at various levels in government time and again that till now no decision has been taken to create National Register of Indian citizen.”

The home ministry said questionnaires for Census along with that of the NPR have been tested during a drive conducted successfully across the country. It said the first phase of Census and updation of NPR have been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

It assured the panel that “right kind of messaging will be done to tackle the miscommunication and rumours around NPR and Census”, according to The Hindu.

It added:

“A 360 degree approach for communicating the right and clear message on the NPR has been planned to be followed. All kinds of media, i.e. social media, AV [audio visual], digital, outdoor, print and word of mouth publicity tools are part of the planned media strategy.”

— The Ministry of Home Affairs, The Hindu

The government also informed that the NPR and Aadhaar are separate exercises with the former collecting more detailed data. “Aadhaar number has been developed as a separate database which is being used only for de-duplication purpose and authentication of beneficiaries of various government schemes,” the home ministry said.