Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday assured the state assembly that the National Population Register (NPR) will not be implemented, but the state will go ahead with the Census.
As the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the treasury benches sparred over the NPR, Mr Vijayan said the state cannot cancel the Centre's notification asking officials to start the enumeration process.
"But we can stay it. We have stayed the NPR process. Since the opposition leader is insisting, the government will look into it. We stand by the decision that census will go on. We will not implement NPR. The questionnaire for that is different," the Chief Minister told the House.
In December, the government had ordered stopping of all activities in connection to NPR in the state considering "apprehensions" that it would lead to National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the wake of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The opposition trooped out of the House after Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan refused to allow a notice for adjournment motion urging the government to temporarily halt the census activities until concerns related to NPR were cleared.
The UDF MLAs left the hall even as the Chief Minister assured the House that all activities related to NPR was put on hold and the state government had issued direction to the district collectors to stop all NPR related works.
"The census work is nothing new to the state. It is a normal process. Information will only be collected for the census. The chief secretary has also issued directions to district collectors in this regard," Mr Vijayan said, replying to an adjournment motion moved by Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) MLA KM Shaji.
According to Mr Shaji, NPR and the census require similar data and it was a huge mistake to say that only the census activities will take place.
"The state government has claimed that it has decided to avoid two questions from the census data questionnaire. But the centre itself has said they don't require answers to those questions. The census officials have been appointed and now they will directly report to the centre and not the state government," Mr Shaji said.
However, Mr Vijayan countered Mr Shaji saying opposition's attempt to raise the matter in the House was part of "some agenda" as the state government had made it clear that it will not allow NPR in state.
"I would like to make it clear that no detention camps will be opened in Kerala. Enumeration with regard to NPR will not be implemented. We have issued specific direction on the matter and if any official goes beyond such directions, strong action will be taken," Mr Vijayan said.