- The exercise will cost Rs 8,500 crore, the government said
- The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database
- The database will have demographic as well as biometric details
The Union Cabinet today approved a proposal to update the National Population Register (NPR), which is linked to the Census. The exercise will cost Rs 3,941 crore, the government said. The Census Commission has said the objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database contaning demographic details of every "usual resident" of the country. "There is no link between NPR and NRC (National Register of Citizens). The NPR has nothing to do with NRC," Union Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters in New Delhi today.
A "usual resident", for the NPR, is a person who has lived in an area for at least six months or more, or a person who intends to live in an area for the next six months or more. It is mandatory for every "usual resident" of India to register in the NPR.
"It will not be a long form. There will be a mobile app for people to upload their details. It's self-declaration. No document is required. No proof is required. No biometric is required. This is already accepted by all the states. All the states have already notified it," Mr Javadekar said.
To a question by a reporter, Mr Javadekar denied the government has said NPR will be the basis for NRC. "NPR will be used as NRC we have never said, never meant," Mr Javadekar replied when a reporter pointed out that Union Minister Kiren Rijiju in July 2014 told parliament that the "government will create the NRC based on information from the NPR by verifying citizenship".
"How much confusion you want to create?" Mr Javadekar shot back and did not answer on what the government said in parliament.
"Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister distributed the cards as proof that people have been registered in the NPR... The total provision is nearly Rs 13,000 crore - Rs 8,750 for Census and Rs 3,941 crore for NPR... States are already using NPR data," the Union Minister said. "This will be the exact exercise of the UPA. The same we are implementing it," he added.
The NPR, since it is linked to the Census, however, is seen as the first step towards a nationwide exercise to implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Though an NPR doesn't necessarily mean it's guaranteed there will be an NRC, it clears the path for a nationwide citizens' list. This is seen as one of the reasons why some states like West Bengal and Kerala, which are opposed to the NRC, have stopped work on the NPR.
The NPR exercise will be held between April and September 2020 in all states and Union Territories except Assam, where the NRC exercise to identify illegal migrants has already been conducted.
The data for NPR was first collected in 2010 during the second term of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, along with the house-listing phase of Census 2011.
The NPR data was first updated in 2015 with door-to-door surveys; digitisation of the updated data is complete now, officials said. Today, the government cleared the decks for the next round of updating the NPR, along with the house-listing phase of Census 2021 in 2020.
West Bengal and Kerala have stopped the NPR exercise, over a week after the controversial bill to amend the Citizenship Act was passed by both houses of parliament.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act for the first time makes religion the test of citizenship in India. The government says it will help minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries to get citizenship if they fled to India before 2015 because of religious persecution. Critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principles of the constitution.