RAISING THE pitch on the National Population Register (NPR), weeks after ordering a stay on all work related to its preparation and updation, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday appealed to people not to give any information to enumerators. Saying that citizenship is a democratic right, she warned that anybody who wanted to “snatch away this right” would have to go over her “dead body”.
“They (central government) are saying it can be done online. Can rice be cooked online? Physical verification will always be required… If anyone from outside comes to you and asks for your father’s name, his mother’s name, your mother’s birthplace, don’t disclose the information… We will not allow CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act), we will not allow NRC (National Register of Citizens), and we will not allow NPR here,” she said.
Banerjee was addressing a public meeting after inaugurating some government projects at Patharpratima, a block in South 24 Parganas district near Sunderbans. “We will not live at the mercy of anyone… We vote here. We study here. We work here. We won’t allow anyone to snatch away our democratic right… We will live on coarse rice, wear coarse clothes, but will not allow anyone to incite communal violence and disturbance,” she said.
“Don’t worry, don’t listen to rumours. I am your pehradar (custodian). If anybody comes to take away your democratic right, he will have to do it over my dead body,” she said.
However, she urged everyone to check the voters’ list. “Work to revise the voters’ list is going on. You must all include your names… Check whether the spelling of your name, father’s name and address are correct or not. If there is a mistake, change it accordingly,” she said.
Without naming any party, Banerjee said people were being “misled and misinformed” about the CAA. “They are telling a new lie (everyday). Do they think that they will snatch our citizenship right, and we will continue to eat lollipop? That will not happen. Don’t worry, your headache is our headache,” she said.
Last month, the West Bengal government stayed all work related to the preparation and updation of the NPR in the state amid fears that it was the “first step” to the NRC. Citing similar fears, the CPI(M)-led government in Kerala also ordered a “stay (on) all the activities connected with the updation of NPR in the state”.
The Union Cabinet, on December 24, approved a proposal for conducting Census of India 2021 at a cost of Rs 8,754.23 crore and updation of the NPR at a cost of Rs 3,941.35 crore. Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar had said “no proof, no documents, no biometric” would be required for the NPR.
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. 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.
The NPR is a register of usual residents 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 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.
Meanwhile, Banerjee announced on Tuesday that Sundarbans would soon be a separate administrative district. “The people of Sundarbans have to go very far to get their work done. If it become a separate district, their work will be easier,” she said.