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Decoding National Population Register: What it is & its link to NRC

The Union Cabinet has approved funds worth Rs 8,500 crore to update the National Population Register.

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New Delhi: The Union Cabinet Tuesday approved funds worth over Rs 8,500 crore to update the National Population Register.

The move comes amid countrywide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens (NRC). There are fears that the NPR exercise is linked to the NRC.

However, the Census Commission has said the objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every “usual resident” of the country.

ThePrint takes a look at what NPR is and attempts to break down the debate around it.

1. What is the National Population Register?

The National Population Register (NPR) is a register of “usual residents” of the country being prepared at the local (village/sub-town), sub-district, district, state and national levels under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

This act of registering oneself in the NPR is a mandatory one. Under the NPR, a “usual resident” is defined as a person who has resided in a local area for the past six months or more, or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next six months or more.

2. What is the aim of having NPR in the country?

The objective is laid down in the 2003 Rules, which state that it is to create a “comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country”. This exercise of NPR takes place through house-to-house enumeration of data, which includes demographic and biometric details.

3. What are the details that will be required?

The database will contain demographic as well as biometric particulars. Aadhaar, mobile number, PAN, driving license, voter ID details and Indian passport numbers are among the details that will be collected from all “usual residents” of India.

However, parting with Aadhaar details will be voluntary after the Puttaswamy judgment of the Supreme Court.

Some of the details required will be the name of person, relationship to head of household, father’s name, mother’s name, spouse’s name (if married,) sex, date of birth, marital status, place of birth, nationality (as declared), present address of usual residence, duration of stay at present address, permanent residential address, occupation/activity, and educational qualification.

4. Was NPR maintained before this Union Cabinet go-ahead?

Data for NPR was collected in 2010 during the Census 2011 exercise. It was updated in 2015 through a door-to-door survey.

The NPR data will now be updated along with the house-listing phase of Census 2021 from April-September 2020 in all states except Assam. A gazette notification to this effect has already been published by the central government on 31 July 2019.

The current government, however, had NPR as an option but chose Aadhaar to be the primary mode for transfer of government benefits in 2016 and thus NPR took a backseat. But now with the latest gazette notification and the cabinet go-ahead, it has again gained fresh momentum.

In the 2010 exercise, the Registrar General of India had collected only demographic details. In 2015, it updated the data further with the mobile, Aadhaar and ration card numbers of residents. For 2020 exercise, it has dropped the ration card number but added other categories.

Also read: Vajpayee-Advani imagined an all-India NRC and Modi-Shah added a Muslim filter


5. How is nationwide NRC different from NPR?

Both NPR and NRC find mention in the 2003 Rules issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the Citizenship Act 1955.

The NPR is a register containing details of persons usually residing in a village/town/ward/or urban area. In simple words, the NPR is created by the house-to-house enumeration of data akin to a census conducted by the Government of India. There are bodies at the state, district, and taluka levels mandated under the Rules who will be entrusted with the duty to populate such a register.

However, the NRC will only consider the citizens of the country and those living abroad and not everybody who is residing within the territorial boundaries of India. For this purpose, the 2003 Rules speak about ‘doubtful citizens’.

6. So, is NRC based on NPR?

The Rules under the head of NRC explicitly state that “during the verification process, particulars of such individuals, whose citizenship is doubtful, shall be entered by the Local Registrar with appropriate remark in the Population Register for further inquiry and in case of doubtful Citizenship, the individual or the family shall be informed in a specified proforma immediately after the verification process is over”.

This means that the NRC will be based on the NPR, and once the NPR establishes the list of ‘doubtful citizens’, they will have to go through a process of claims and objections before being entered into the NRC. The ones who fail to prove they are not doubtful will be excluded.

7. Which states could prove to be a roadblock for NPR?

The West Bengal government earlier this month stayed all activities related to the preparation and updation of NPR. The decision came amid violent protests in parts of the state over the citizenship law and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reiterating that the law and the proposed pan-India NRC will not be implemented in the state.

Kerala and Rajasthan have followed suit, saying they will not work on compiling the NPR as mandated by the Centre to record ‘basic information’ on citizens.

8. Are the NPR and population census the same thing?

Recently, after the West Bengal government stayed the NPR exercise fearing that it would form a basis for NRC, the Centre issued a clarification stating that NPR was nothing to be afraid of as it would only culminate into the population census 2021. However, a closer look at the legal details reveals a different picture.

Population census in India is under the Census Act of 1948 whereas NPR comes under the Citizenship Act 1955. Thus, both the exercises are under different legislations and there is no way that they will culminate into one.

In fact, though the census data will be available in the public domain, NPR will not and will facilitate the pan-India NRC exercise, say Rules 2003.

Also read: BJP plan for pan-India NRC began with population register but could now be dead-on-arrival


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