Amidst curbs to check coronavirus, a big question mark hangs over the updation of the National Population Register (NPR), scheduled to begin on April 1. Sources said the exercise might be postponed, though a final decision has not been taken yet.
On Friday, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging that the NPR updation be postponed. Patnaik, who supported the government on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act but has expressed reservations over questions regarding the date and place of birth of parents in the 2020 NPR form, wrote, “We are all at present fighting against the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. All efforts of the state machinery are directed towards containment of COVID-19. As the mobilisation for Census and other concerned activities shall pose a great risk for field functionaries and people as well, I would rather suggest to postpone the scheduled Census and related activities in the country.”
Sources said there were practical difficulties too as some states had not been able to complete the NPR and Houselisting Census training for enumerators due to COVID-19. There is hardly any time left now, with curbs declared till March 31.
It is the state governments that provide manpower for the Census exercise, with school- teachers enlisted as enumerators. They go door to door and seek information on family members in each household.
In his letter, Patnaik said, “I am apprised of the fact that 30 lakh enumerators and supervisors in the country will be involved to collect data by visiting each household during the first phase. This has to be preceded by elaborate training, awareness campaign and related activities.”
Multiple states ruled by the Opposition, as well as several NDA allies, have said they would not cooperate with the NPR process due to apprehensions associated with the CAA and fears that it is a precursor to a National Register of Citizens. West Bengal, Kerala, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Puducherry Assemblies have passed resolutions against the NPR process. The Bihar Assembly unanimously passed a resolution that it will only allow the NPR under the 2010 format.
While maintaining that no state can legally obstruct the Census process since it falls under the Central list and has statutory protection, the Modi government has been trying to reach out to states to allay anxieties. Registrar General of India Vivek Joshi too has met some states’ representatives, including Chief Ministers. However, none of the opposing states has yet said it is on board for the NPR process.
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