The Union Cabinet today approved a proposal to update the National Population Register (NPR), a database of information about people living in the country that is linked to the Census. The exercise will be carried in all states and Union Territories, alongside the house-listing phase of the Census, except Assam; the state has been excluded because a National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise has already been conducted. The NPR exercise will be carried out between April and September next year and is expected to cost Rs 8,500 crore, the government said.
The NPR exercise has been described as a routine process meant to supplement the forthcoming Census and help improve delivery of benefits from the government's various welfare schemes. The data will also be provided to state governments.
What is the purpose of the NPR?
The Census Commission has said the objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every "usual resident" of the country. 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.
Registration in the NPR is not contingent on being a citizen of the country; a foreigner who intends to live in the country for at least the next six months is also required to register and submit necessary details including nationality, religion, etc.
What data will the NPR contain?
The database will contain demographic particulars of every individual living in the country, irrespective of his/her declared nationality.
These details will include your name, the names of your parents and that of your spouse, as well as basic information like sex, date of birth, place of birth, nationality (as declared), permanent and current address (if they differ) duration of stay at present address, occupation and educational qualifications.
How will the government collect NPR data?
Addressing a media briefing this evening, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said NPR data could be submitted via a mobile app. Those without access to the app could submit information on a prescribed form. "There will be a mobile app. It is self-declaration. No document is required. No proof is required. No biometric is required," Mr Javadekar said.
How is the NPR different from the Census?
The NPR differs from the Census in the scale of the data collection activity.
The Census takes place once every ten years and provides the government with in-depth information on citizens' demography, economic activity, literacy and education levels, housing and household amenities, fertility and mortality rates, languages spoken, religion and other key data-sets.
Will NPR lead to nationwide rollout of NRC?
At today's briefing Mr Javadekar stressed there was no link between to NRC. "There is no link between NPR and NRC (National Register of Citizens). The NPR has nothing to do with NRC," he said, adding, "It was a good move, first started in 2010 by the UPA government. We are just carrying it forward. The NRC was not mentioned in the Cabinet meeting",
However many still see the National Population Register as the first step to a nationwide NRC. An NPR doesn't guarantee an NRC exercise but it does clear the way for one, which is one reason why some states - like Bengal and Kerala - that are opposed to the NRC have halted work on the NPR.
On Sunday Prime Minister Narendra Modi implied the nationwide rollout of the NRC - something repeatedly referenced by Home Minister Amit Shah - may not happen; he said the exercise had only been carried out in Assam after the Supreme Court's order.
On Monday, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote to counterparts and opposition leaders to unite and say "no" to the centre's citizenship law and plans for a nationwide NRC exercise.
When was the last NPR?
Data for NPR was last collected in 2010 - with the house-listing phase of the 2011 Census. Updating of this data was done in 2015 by conducting door-to-door surveys. Mr Javadekar said the 2020 NPR update will be carried out alongside the Census to save money and resources.
How did the NPR start?
In 2000, under the NDA government headed by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Kargil Review Committee recommended compulsory registration of citizens and non-citizens living in the country; each group was to be issued differently-coloured and designed cards.
The recommendations were accepted the following year and, in 2003, the Citizenship (Registration and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules was passed.
The NPR was then authorised in 2004 by the UPA government after an amendment to the 1955 Citizenship Act. The amendment allowed the centre to "compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue (a) national identity card".
A coastal NPR was carried out to enhance security after the Mumbai attacks - Resident Identity Cards were issued to nearly 66 lakh residents.