Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark on National Register of Citizens (NRC) stating that there has been no discussion regarding implementing it nationwide–followed by Home Minister Amit Shah’s confirmation on the same has made things only more confusing.
Officials on December 24 affirming this said that “There is no proposal as of now to prepare NRC on the basis.”
What is National Population Register?
The National Population Register (NPR) is a register of “usual residents” of the country being prepared at the local (village/sub-town), sub-district, district, state and national levels under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards).
A “usual resident” here means–a person who has resided in a local area for the last six months or more or a person who intends to live in that area for the next six months or more.
As now, the Narendra Modi government has proposed to update the existing NPR, which already has a computerized database of more than 119 crore residents. They are planning to verify the details of all respondents through a house-to-house survey, according to an official manual on conducting the new NPR exercise. The Union Cabinet on December 24 had approved ₹3,941.35 crore for updating the National Population Register, which is a list of “usual residents” of the country.
The NPR exercise has become controversial because the Citizenship Rules 2003 link the Population Register to the creation of a National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) or National Register of Citizens.
This has brought about another fear in the already unrest minds of citizens of Indian after exclusion of the Muslim community from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afganistan, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. This has aggravated the protests across India, and more than 20 people have been killed most of them from Uttar Pradesh.
As per the report by The Hindu, the data for NPR was collected in 2010, along with the house-listing phase of the Census of India 2011. The data was updated in 2015. Also, it has been proposed that the next phase of NPR will be conducted adjacent to the Census exercise between April to September 2020.
According to the government manual, the officials will “modify and correct the demographic data items.” Along with they will be collecting mobile, voter cards, Indian passport, and driving license numbers from residents. The manual claims the “inclusion of all new residents, new households found in the local area during the fieldwork.”
The 2010 NPR form consisted of details on 15 parameters whereas the “pretest” form which was used to gather data on a trial basis from 30 lakh people in September this year, sought additional details such as– the place of birth of father and mother, last place of residence and others. It also required details such as Aadhar number, voter ID card, mobile phone number, and driving license number.
As per the manual, if a respondent does not know the exact age of other members of the household and probing also does not aid in determining the age of that person, “you will have to estimate her/his age by using your best judgment.” The manual was prepared before the pretest was conducted.
On December 24, Amit Shah claimed that there is no link between NPR and NRC, but the 2003 Citizenship Rules clearly state that the creation of NRIC / NRC will be as per the data gathered in the NPR. Moreover, rules empower local officials to decide on a person’s citizenship status.
On December 26, Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy confirmed that additional details such as place of birth of the parents of a person being enlisted, Aadhaar number, and last place of residence were being recorded as part of “basic requirements for NPR.”
He also accused the opposition parties and some media houses for spreading wrong information and creating unrest among the citizens. Additionally, he assured that NRP and NRC do not have any link, and NPR is conducted in continuation of the process which the UPA government had started back in 2010.
However, the Modi Government has repeatedly stated in Parliament that the NPR was the first step towards organizing the NRC. The Assam NRC, conducted under the supervision of the Supreme Court, had excluded 19 lakh out of 3.29 crore residents. This creates a fear among the people that they will have to dig out old documents to prove their citizenship on the lines of the exercise conducted in Assam. So far, the government has not revealed the cut-off date for a nationwide NRC, which Home Minister Amit Shah has committed to in Parliament.
This proves that either the Central government is going to revamp rules for upcoming expected NRC, or they are yet to decide in these lines. This time the government will have to sketch a specific format as to how things will work as it is about the question of citizenship of an Individual, and the “trial and error” method can’t be used here.