In an indication that the government is reluctant to drop contentious questions from the National Population Register (NPR) form, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had told a Parliamentary standing committee that these questions were asked in the past as well and are necessary for back-end data processing.
The committee has, however, observed that with the government unable to build a consensus on the NPR process, there is a danger of the Census exercise being stymied.
The NPR exercise is to be carried out with the house-listing phase of Census 2020 and is scheduled to begin on April 1.
The Standing Committee on Ministry of Home Affairs tabled its report on Demands for Grants (2020-2021) in Rajya Sabha on Thursday. The committee is headed by Congress MP Anand Sharma.
The report has stated that the committee had asked the ministry over questions regarding date and place of birth of parents as listed in NPR 2020 form.
Multiple states have raised objections to the questions, and even some NDA allies such as JD(U) and LJP have expressed reservations about the questions.
“The Ministry submitted…the Date & Place of Birth of Parents were collected in NPR 2010 as well for all parents who were enumerated within the household,” the report stated. “For parents living elsewhere or expired at the time of enumeration, only the names of parents were collected. To facilitate back-end data processing and making the data items of date and place of birth complete for all households, details of parents are being collected in a more comprehensive manner in NPR 2020.”
In the wake of several states passing resolutions against NPR, the committee noted the government’s inability to build a consensus. It stated: “The Committee…on 18th February observed that there is a lot of dissatisfaction and fear among people regarding the upcoming NPR and Census. The Committee feels these apprehensions should have been duly ventilated in the media. The MHA must consider some way out so that the Census goes smoothly.”
The government says linking the two will facilitate Aadhaar’s integration with other databases and help clean the various other databases. The MHA says government-created databases such as Aadhaar, Voter ID, birth & death register, NPR, driving licence and passport may contain “many spurious and incorrect entries in databases”. These databases, the ministry told the House panel, do not communicate with one another since there is no common identifier. “Collection of Aadhaar number (on voluntary basis), Voter ID, passport number and driving licence number during updation of NPR will facilitate communication among these databases, subject to the existing laws,” it said. The Aadhaar number, the MHA reasons, can act as a common link among these large databases.
Otherwise, the committee noted, there is a “chance of the entire process being stymied in many states”.
In its conclusion, the committee even urged the government to take appropriate steps to build consensus. It recommended all states and Union Territories to be “fully convinced on various issues pertaining to the NPR which commences in April to have a national consensus so that there is absolute clarity and no apprehension” among the people. This, the committee noted, will help conduct both exercises in a smooth manner.
The committee sought to know about the proposals for use of digital technology and biometric identification for data collection for the Census. The MHA replied that there was no proposal to undertake biometric identification in Census 2021.
The committee also asked about the possibility of using the Aadhaar database for updating NPR without undergoing fresh exercise of NPR to prevent duplication of efforts and expenditure.
Explained | Why NPR isn’t NRC, and yet…
The ministry, the report stated, submitted that since NPR is being updated, and not created afresh, existing Aadhaar database cannot serve the purpose and there is no question of duplication. “Besides, Aadhaar is individual data, whereas NPR contains family-wise data. It will not be possible without visiting each and every household to construct family based data from Aadhaar database. Various welfare schemes of State and Central Governments are generally family based for which NPR data may be used,” the report stated about the ministry’s contention.
The committee, however, was not convinced and asked the government to consider Aadhaar database for NPR updation. “The Committee is of the opinion that Aadhaar is not just an individual’s data but is also tied up with ration card, PAN, etc. Aadhaar metadata also includes entire family’s surname, address, etc. Therefore, the Committee fails to understand as to why this should be treated as individual data only.”
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