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Cabinet Clears NPR Exercise, Amit Shah 'Clearly States' It Has No Link With NRC

The NPR will be a database containing a list of all “usual residents” of the country.


Updated:December 25, 2019, 7:44 AM IST
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Cabinet Clears NPR Exercise, Amit Shah 'Clearly States' It Has No Link With NRC
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New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Tuesday approved the proposal to update the National Population Register (NPR), which seeks to create a comprehensive identity database of every "usual resident" of the country and has been described as the first step towards conducting an all-India National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise.

Home minister Amit Shah, however, sought to allay the fears by "clearly stating" that there is no link between the NRC and NPR. His assurance came after opposition parties pointed out past instances when his ministry and junior ministers had linked the two together.

Officials said the Cabinet has approved Rs 3,941 crore for updating the NPR, which is to be done between April and September next year in all states and Union Territories except Assam, where the National Register of Citizens exercise to identify illegal migrants has already been conducted.

The NPR will be a database generated through house-to-house enumeration during the “house-listing” phase of the census, which is held once in 10 years and will be done next in 2021. It defines a “usual resident” as a person who has resided in a place for six months or more, and intends to reside there for another six months or more.

Although the BJP has argued that the NPR has nothing to do with the NRC exercise and is part of the Census, a gazette notification of July 31, 2019 had stated that the population register will be updated “in pursuance of sub-rule (4) of Rule 3 of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003”.

The Rule 3 is the concept of NRIC (National Register of Indian Citizens) and its sub-rule (4) provides for "Preparation of the National Register of Indian Citizens".

The data for NPR was first collected in 2010 during the second term of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, along with the house-listing phase of Census 2011. The data was updated in 2015 with door-to-door surveys. In the next step, the government has decided to update the NPR along with the house-listing phase of Census 2021 in 2020.

But the next phase will also ask for information that was not sought before: date and place of birth of parents – this holds significance when viewed in the context of the proposed nationwide NRC.

At a cabinet briefing after Monday's Cabinet meeting, union minister Prakash Javadekar looked to downplay concerns over the link with National Register of Citizens and said there is "no proposal at present to link it with NRC".

He added that no documents would be collected at the time of door to door enumeration for creating the NPR database. "It is self declaration," he said, adding that the government trusts citizens to give honest data.

He also said that giving details like passport number, Aadhar data, driving license, etc will be voluntary and no list of doubtful people will be prepared under NPR exercise, as has been reported previously.

Several states had already started preparatory work on updating the NPR after the notification, but two states – West Bengal and Kerala – have stopped work on it recently after the massive protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which for the first time makes religion a criterion for obtaining citizenship, and the proposed NRC.

While the Bengal government, in its order, said NPR has “nothing to do” with the usual Census process in 2021, the Kerala government said it stopped work over 'apprehensions' of public that it would lead to NRC in the wake of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.

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