In what is being seen as the first step towards a nationwide National Register of Citizens, the Union Home Ministry plans to set up a national database of all Indian citizens, registering the births and deaths of all citizens at the national level, a cabinet note and a bill moved by the ministry have revealed. At present, this database is maintained by states through local registrars.
The last proposal of linking the Aadhaar card with the voter ID card, though voluntary, was met with stiff opposition in parliament when the Election Commission recommended amending the Representation of People Act.
Now, the government wants to integrate this database with the population register and electoral rolls, Aadhaar card, ration card, passport and driving licences and has moved a cabinet note to amend the Registration of Births and Deaths Act.
The Registrar General of India will maintain this database and work with chief registrars in states to maintain it. It will periodically update it with various agencies in charge of Aadhaar, ration cards, electoral rolls, passports and driving licences.
The note suggests the government intends to march ahead with Union Home Minister Amit Shah's announcement of a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), to weed out immigrants that the government will deem illegal, by integrating and updating the National Population Register.
The plan to create a nationwide NRC that was first announced for Assam, along with the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), had sparked massive protests across the country nearly three years ago.
Critics of the move said that coupled with CAA, which granted citizenship to any refugee from neighbouring countries if they had moved to India before 2015 but only if they were not Muslims, the NRC process could result in the persecution of the minority community.
The renewed push for the NRC-like move comes as census operations remain on hold because of COVID-19 and the government has learnt it needs to appoint a special sub-registrar to take care of spot death registration during disasters.
The cabinet is expected to take up this proposal shortly and the amendment bill is expected to be introduced in the next session of parliament, government officials said.