National Population Register
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TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
In News: The Union Cabinet recently approved a proposal to conduct Census 2021 and update the National Population Register (NPR) in all the States/UTs except Assam. The Government will spend Rs 8,754 crore for the Census 2021 and Rs 3,941 crore for updating the NPR.
National Population Register (NPR):
- The NPR is a register of usual residents of the country.
- It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR.
- It includes both Indian citizens as well as a foreign citizen.
The objective of the NPR:
- To create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country.
- The first National Population Register was prepared in 2010 and updating this data was done during 2015 by conducting door to door survey.
- Also essential for providing good governance
- It is being prepared at the local (Village/sub-Town), sub-District, District, State and National level under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
- The announcement on the NPR came amid continuing protests against the recent Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019, in many parts of the country
NPR connected to NRC?
- The Citizenship Act empowers the government to compulsorily register every citizen and maintain a National Register of Indian Citizens.
- A nationwide NRC — if undertaken — would flow out of NPR.
- This does not necessarily mean that an NRC must follow NPR — no such register was compiled after the previous NPR in 2010.
- After a list of residents is created, a nationwide NRC — if it happens — could go about verifying the citizens from that list.
Concerns: NRC or NPR exercise, in combination with the recently enacted Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, could lead to disenfranchisement and harassment of the poor and undocumented segments of the population was not born out of anyone’s imagination
Where does Aadhaar fit in?
There is a little back story about NPR and Aadhaar. The two were considered rival projects under the UPA government of Manmohan Singh. When NPR process began in the government, P Chidambaram was the Union home minister, who pushed the population register project aggressively.
Aadhaar was taking shape with equally aggressive push from then Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee (who later became the President of India — a development that saw Chidamabaram moving to the finance ministry and also an end to NPR-Aadhaar rivalry).
Both the NPR and Aadhaar projects were concurrently underway collecting demographic and biometric data. Initially, both had better and targeted delivery of benefits and services to people as their objectives. The works of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the home ministry were viewed as duplication and wastage of resources.
The conflict, however, ended in a compromise between the home ministry and the UIDAI where it was decided that NPR and Aadhaar databases will be used for different purposes. Aadhaar will deliver welfare services and NPR will be used for other purposes of governance.
It was also decided that those already enrolled for Aadhaar need not give their biometric details during NPR exercise. The NPR data were to be matched with Aadhaar data for de-duplication. But the final formula gave NPR an upper hand. It was agreed that in case of discrepancy between Aadhaar and NPR data, NPR would prevail.
Simply put, NPR conducted in accordance with the Citizenship Amendment Act 2003 will form the key data set for both Aadhaar and NRIC.
- The NRC, as it was rolled out in Assam, puts the burden of proof on citizens to establish that they are indeed citizens. The undocumented and the poor will bear the brunt of this approach.
- The proposed format for enumerating the NPR only exacerbates this concern and adds a third axis to the ongoing confusion and turmoil.
- With the passage of the CAA, and the announcement of the NRIC, there is enough factual basis for doubting the government’s claim that the NPR has nothing to do with the NRIC.
- Identify own citizens: Provide a comprehensive identity database with relevant demographic details leading to better formulation of policies as well as aid national security
- Streamline data: Will ease the life as targeted population for government help will be better served and paperwork and red tape will be cut down on
- Eliminate duplication: Would also eliminate duplication in voter lists
- If the government has a rethink on its strident position on the NRC, it must say so upfront, and at any rate desist from denigrating critics.
- The NPR is not about citizenship but only about residency. However, when additional questions such as “place of birth of father and mother”, etc are being proposed for the forthcoming exercise, the concern that this may be a prelude to the NRIC is logical.
Connecting the dots:
- Do you think NPR creates confusion among people? Explain
- Are NPR NRC and CAA are interrelated? Examine.