Union Home Minister Amit Shah Tuesday drew a distinction between the National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) saying both were governed by different laws and NPR data would never be used for the NRC exercise. In an interview to ANI he said: “NPR is the database on which policy is made. NRC is a process in which people are asked to prove their citizenship. There is no connection between the two processes, nor can they be used in each other’s survey. NPR data can never be used for NRC. Even the laws are different…I assure all the people, specially from the minorities, that NPR is not going to be used for NRC. It’s a rumour.”
Facts show otherwise. That NRC shall be carried out on the basis of NPR is enshrined in the Citizenship Rules of 2003 under the Citizenship Act 1955. Indeed, NPR is part and parcel of the rules framed for NRC.
Not just this. In its first term, the Narendra Modi government told Parliament at least nine times that NRC will be conducted on the basis of NPR data even calling the former a “logical conclusion” of the latter.
First, the law itself:
* The NPR, an enumeration of “usual residents” (resident for at least six months) of the country, is a data-collection exercise based on voluntary disclosure of information by people and is governed by Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. The rules were framed under sub-sections (1) and (3) of Section 18 of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
Under Rule 3, which provides for NRC, sub-rule (4), says, “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 Local Registrar.”
Sub-rule (5) of the Rule then says: “The Local Register of Indian citizens shall contain details of persons after due verification made from the Population Register.”
Under Rule 4, titled “Preparation of the National Register of Indian Citizens”, sub-rule 4 says, “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 enquiry 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.”
Explained: Why NPR isn’t NRC
Under Rule 7, the head of the family is supposed to provide correct information to enumerators during NPR exercise failing which he shall be penalised (under rule 17) with a fine extending up to Rs 1,000.
* The 2018-19 Annual Report of the MHA, released recently, says that NPR is the first step towards implementation of the NRC. “The National Population Register (NPR) is the first step towards the creation of the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) under the provisions of the aforementioned Statute (Citizenship Act),” the Annual Report said.
* In Parliament, on July 8, 2014, in a written reply to a question by Congress MP Rajeev Satav, then MoS Home Kiren Rijiju said, “The scheme of NPR has been reviewed and it has been decided that NPR should be completed and taken to its logical conclusion, which is creation of NRIC by verification of citizenship status of every usual resident in the NPR.”
* On July 15 and July 22 again, Rijiju linked NPR and NRIC on similar lines during question hour in Lok Sabha.
* On July 23, he made the same statements in Rajya Sabha.
* On November 26, 2014, Rijiju told Rajya Sabha: “The NPR is the first step towards creation of National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) by verifying the citizenship status of every usual resident.”
* On April 21 and July 28, 2015, then MoS Home Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhury reiterated the “logical conclusion” statement in Lok Sabha during question hour.
* On May 13, 2015, in Rajya Sabha, Rijiju made similar assertions.
* On November 16, 2016, Rijiju reiterated this during question hour in Rajya Sabha. “The Government has approved the preparation of Population Register comprising details of usual residents in the country. The preparation of Population Register is a part of preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens under provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 read with the Citizenship Rules (2003).”
In his Tuesday interview, Shah, who has underlined several times that the NRC will be held, echoed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Sunday remarks that there has been no talk of NRC in the government.
“There is no point discussing this (NRC) because it is not under discussion at the moment. PM rightly said it has neither been discussed in the Cabinet nor has it been spoken of in Parliament in relationship to the Act. My party’s manifesto is at its place. As and when it happens, it won’t be done in secret,” Shah said.
Notably, Shah has repeatedly spoken about CAA and NRC in the same breath and even asked people to understand the “chronology” where CAA would be followed by NRC. He has also repeatedly said that NRC would be implemented across the country.
Differing with the PM over detention centres, Shah admitted there were detention centres in Assam and Karnataka. He, however, chose to not link them with NRC.
“Whatever detention centres are there are part of a continuous process. People can’t just come into the country and start living here. There is a law. If a foreigner enters any country without documents, they are kept in a detention centre until they can be deported to their country. There is no connection between detention centres and NRC. Whatever illegal migrants are caught have to be kept in these detention centres that are being discussed. No detention centre is functional and none have come up under the Modi regime,” he said.
On NPR, Shah on Tuesday said that it was merely aimed at reaching government benefits to targeted beneficiaries. “In NPR, people have to make voluntary disclosure of information. They can upload in an App. No supporting documents will be asked,” he said adding that such a survey had been earlier as well. “If such surveys had not been done, we would not be able to take benefits such as Ujjwala to the people. Those spreading misinformation over it are damaging the interests of the poor and minorities. Those who are kept out of the NPR, how will schemes cover them?” Shah said.
The minister said NPR was not part of BJP’s manifesto and it was UPA’s brainchild. “This process was started by UPA which formed a law in 2004. In 2010, it was done ahead of the 2011 Census. Now a Census is again being done and NPR will be done according to the provisions.”
He said the Opposition was raising its voice against NPR for political reasons. “Because the fear of CAA has gone out of the minds of the people, so certain people are now instigating them over NPR. I want to request the CMs of Kerala and West Bengal not to take this step (to not implement NPR in their state),” Shah said.
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