Amid nationwide protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens, the Union Cabinet Tuesday approved a proposal for conducting Census of India 2021 at a cost of Rs 8,754.23 crore and updation of the National Population Register (NPR) at a cost of Rs 3,941.35 crore.
Briefing the press, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said “no proof, no documents, no biometric” will be required for the NPR and sought to delink it from the proposed NRC. “Iska dur dur tak NRC se kuchh bhi sambandh nahin hai.”
While the Census will cover the entire nation, the NPR exercise will be conducted in all states except Assam where the NRC exercise was conducted recently — and the final list rejected by the state government. The NPR updation and house listing and housing Census will be conducted from April to September, 2020. Population enumeration will be carried out from February 9 to February 28, 2021.
Parents’ data raises questions
NPR is a register of all residents in India. The enumerator comes to the household and records self-declaration. This time, a new query is parents’ place and date of birth. This, coupled with the ongoing protests and distrust around CAA-NRC, have raised questions over the intent.
TheNPR is a register of usual residents of the country and includes both Indian and foreign citizens. It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR. The first NPR, prepared in 2010 under provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and Citizenship Rules, 2003, was subsequently updated in 2015.
According to the proposal moved by the Union Home Ministry, demographic details of every individual will be required for every usual resident on 21 points including date and place of birth of parents, last place of residence, permanent account number (PAN), Aadhaar (on voluntarily basis), voter ID card number, driving licence number and mobile number. It is not clear whether all have been approved by the Cabinet.
For the 2010 NPR, data was collected on 15 points and did not include date and place of birth of parents and last place of residence.
“We are launching a massive programme of national Census which happens every 10 years. So, 2021 is the Census year. Every house will be mapped, listed during April and September 2020. In February 2021, the headcount will be done,” Javadekar said.
He said no proof or document submission will be required for the NPR which will be a self-declaration exercise. “Isme koi bhi proof dene ki zaroorat nahin hai, koi bhi kagaz dene ki zaroorat nahin hai. Isme na proof hai, na kagaz hai, na biometric hai, jo aap kahoge wahi sahi hai kyonki janata par hamara bharosa hai (No proof, no paper, no biometric is required, whatever you say is correct because we trust the people).”
“NPR was started during the UPA government in 2010 and at that time the cards (of NPR) were distributed by the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and updation of the same was done in 2015. As this is done at an interval of 10 years, it will take place in 2020,” he said.
Told that some states were opposed to the move, Javadekar said, “All the states have accepted this and they have issued the required notifications and training of officials for this exercise is going on. Those who live in India will be counted under the NPR.”
“Conducting the Census and NPR simultaneously saves a lot of money. One is happening for the sixteenth time and the other for the second time. This will be a big task and information will be collected by trusting the people. It’s self-certification. We are not demanding any proof, no document is required, no biometric is required. There is a biometric in Aadhaar but we are not demanding that here,” he said.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, also present at the briefing, said: “Aadhaar number will be optional.”
Javadekar said: “This will be the exact UPA exercise which all of you welcomed. We are implementing the same which you can’t say is wrong. We are repeating only what the UPA did.”
“NPR will be used for NRC we have never said, never meant,” Javadekar said. Asked whether details such as place and date of birth of parents will be asked during the NPR, he said: “It will be optional… If you don’t remember it, there is no requirement to fill it.” He then said he had not seen the form finalised by experts.
According to the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, notified on December 10, 2003, the central government may, by an order issued in this regard, decide a date by which the population register shall be prepared by collecting information relating to all persons who are usually residing within the jurisdiction of the local registrar. The local register of Indian citizens shall contain details of persons after due verification made from the population register.
For the first time, a mobile app will be used for data collection. The decennial population Census is being conducted in India synchronously since 1872 without any break. The Census 2021 will be the sixteenth Census in the country and the eight after Independence.