The Centre on Wednesday informed Parliament that it was yet to take a decision on the countrywide rollout of the National Register of Citizens, a proposed nationwide exercise to identify undocumented immigrants. Those who identify as citizens of the country would have to furnish evidence that confirms them as Indians.

Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai offered the government’s position in response to a question in the Rajya Sabha on whether the central government had any plans to begin the implementation of the NRC across the country.

“Till now, the government has not taken any decision to prepare the National Register of Indian Citizens at the national level,” Rai said in a written reply.

In a separate response, Rai also said that there was no provision of detention centres under the Citizenship Act, 1955, and the National Register of Indian Citizens.

“Detention centres are set up by state governments and Union Territory administrations as per their local requirements to detain illegal immigrants and foreigners, some of whom may have completed their sentence and their deportation to their native place is pending for want of travel documents,” the Union minister said in a written response to a query posed by Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’ Brien.

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“Details of number of detention Centres set up by the State Governments/ Union Territory Administrations and the details of persons detained in these centres are not centrally maintained,” he added.

In November 2019, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had announced in Parliament that a National Register of Citizens would be conducted across India after the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act. 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.

The government defends the National Register of Citizens as a mechanism to identify undocumented migrants, particularly Bangladeshis. But critics fear that the CAA when used in conjunction with the NRC will allow the government to exclude Muslims, turning them into non-citizens. The government and its supporters have sought to insist that the CAA and the NRC are not linked.

The NRC was carried out in Assam in August 2019. When the list was published, it excluded 19 lakh people. The number of people left out comprise around 6% of Assam’s entire population, two times the number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and the population of Nagaland.

Operating detention centres in a legal vacuum, the government interned thousands of people declared as foreigners. Some of those left out have been appealing against their exclusion in foreigners’ tribunals. As many as 3.3 crore people had applied for the exercise.