Government

National Population Register

NATIONAL POPULATION REGISTER | Recently there has been a lot of protests that are seen in states all over India. Mostly by our students against Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). In line with that our ministry have started with NPR (National Population Register) making claims that it has nothing to do with the NRC. So, what is NPR and how will it be affecting us? Let’s find out.

Background (How it all started?)

  • A group of ministers created after the Kargil war recommended compulsory registration of all residents in India, to facilitate the preparation of a national register of citizens and curb illegal migration. It had said that all Indian citizens should be given a multi-purpose national identity card (MPNIC) and non-citizens should be issued identity cards of a different colour and design.
  • In 2010 Registrar General of India collected data for a National Population Registry during Census 2011 enumeration. In 2015, this data was further updated by conducting a door-to-door survey. However, the government picked out Aadhaar as the key vehicle for transfer of government benefits in 2016, while putting NPR on hold due to slow progress of NPR.

Through recent notification in August 2019 by the RGI, the idea has now been revived and exercise of updating the 2015 NPR with additional data has begun and will be completed in 2020.

About National Population Register: The NPR is a list of “usual residents of the country”.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, a “usual resident of the country” is one who has been residing in a local area for at least the last six months, or intends to stay in a particular location for the next six months.

  • The National Population Register (NPR) is being prepared under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. The Citizenship Act 1955 was amended in 2004 by inserting Section 14A which provides for the following: –
    • The Central Government may compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue National Identity Card.
    • The Central Government may maintain a National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) and for that purpose establish a National Registration Authority.
    • Out of the universal data set of residents, the subset of citizens would be derived after due verification of the citizenship status. Therefore, it is also compulsory for all usual residents to register under the NPR.

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Scope of NPR:

  • National Population Register (NPR) will be conducted at the local, sub-district, district, state and national levels.
  • It will be conducted in conjunction with the first phase of the Census 2021, by the Office of the Registrar General of India (RGI) under the Home Ministry.

Note: Only Assam will not be included, given the recently completed NRC.

  • There is also a proposal to issue Resident Identity Cards to all usual residents in the NPR of 18 years of age.
How is National Population Register (NPR) different from census and NRC?
Census doesn’t ask for individual identity details, and at the end of the day, is a macro exercise. The NPR, on the other hand, is designed to collect identity details of every individual.

Census data is protected by a confidentiality clause. The government has committed that it will not reveal information received from an individual for the headcount. However, NPR would serve as the mother database to verify citizenship if a nationwide NRC is carried out later.

Unlike the NRC, the NPR is not a citizenship enumeration drive, as it would record even a foreigner staying in a locality for more than six months.

Once the NPR is completed and published, it is expected to be the basis for preparing the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC), a pan-India version of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Data collected in NPR
The NPR will collect both demographic data and biometric data.

There are 15 different categories of demographic data, ranging from name and place of birth toeducation and occupation.

For biometric data it will depend on Aadhaar, for which it will seek Aadhaar details of the residents.

It is working to update the Civil Registration System of birth and death certificates.

While registering with the NPR is mandatory, furnishing of additional data such as PAN, Aadhaar,driving licence and voter ID is voluntary.  
NPR vs Aadhar
The data collected in NPR will be sent to UIDAI for deduplication and issue of Aadhaar Number.

Voluntary vs. Mandatory: It is compulsory for all Indian residents to register with the NPR, while registration with the UIDAI is considered voluntary.

Number vs. Register: UID will issue a number, while the NPR is the prelude to the National Citizens Register. Thus, it is only a Register.
Authentication vs. Identification: The UID number will serve as an authenticator during transactions. It can be adopted and made mandatory by any platform. The National Resident Card will signify resident status and citizenship. It is unclear what circumstances the card will be required for use in.

UIDAI vs. RGI: The UIDAI is responsible for enrolling individuals in the UID scheme, and the RGI is responsible for enrolling individuals in the NPR scheme.

Door to door canvassing vs. center enrollment: Individuals will have to go to an enrollment center and register for the UID, while the NPR will carry out part of the enrollment of individuals through door to door canvassing.

Prior documentation vs. census material: The UID will be based off of prior forms of documentation and identification, while the NPR will be based off of census information.  
What is the controversy around it?

Comes in the backdrop of the NRC excluding lakhs of people in Assam.

It intends to collect a much larger amount of personal data on residents of India.

There is yet no clarity on the mechanism for protection of this vast amount of data.

Let’s understand it properly in benefit and issues of NPR.

Benefit of NPR

  • Database of residents: It will help to create a comprehensive identity database of its residents with relevant demographic details and will also streamline data of residents across various platforms.
  • Better implementation: It will help the government formulate its policies better and will also aid national security.
  • Not only will it help target government beneficiaries in a better way, but also further cut down paperwork and red tape in a similar manner that Aadhaar has done.
  • Ministry of Home Affairs has argued that the NPR would be more suited for distributing subsidies than the UID, as the NPR has data linking each individual to a household.
  • Remove any errors: For e.g. It is common to find different date of birth of a person on different government documents. NPR will help eliminate that.
  • It will help in implementing the idea of ‘One Identity Card’ that has been recently floated by the government.
  • Avoid duplication: With NPR data, residents will not have to furnish various proofs of age, address and other details in official work. It would also eliminate duplication in voter lists, government insists.

Issues regarding NPR

  • Privacy issue: Even as issues of privacy associated with Aadhaar continue to be debated in the country, the NPR is on a drive to collect detailed data on residents of India. There is as yet no clarity on the mechanism for protection of this vast amount of data.
  • Legality of sharing data: Both the legality of the UID and NPR collecting data and biometrics has been questioned. For example, it has been pointed out that the collection of biometric information through the NPR, is beyond the scope of subordinate legislation.
  • National security: It can raise national security threats, given the size of the databases that will be created, the centralized nature of the databases, the sensitive nature of the information held in the databases, and the involvement of international agencies.
  • Issues similar to NRC: NPR will be the base for a nationwide National Register of Citizens and will be similar to the list of citizens of Assam. During the NRC exercise, there were several instances where some members of a family featured in the draft list while the others did not.
  • Duplication of projects: It is unclear why the government would feel the need to subject India’s citizenry to another identification drive when over 90 per cent of them are covered by Aadhaar, which was an elaborate, time-consuming exercise.
  • Confusion in the idea of citizenship: With these multiple projects like Aadhar, NRC, NPR, census etc it has created confusion regarding the idea of citizenship in the country.
  • Uncounted people: The census does not cover the entire population, which leaves unanswered the questions of the status of those citizens who are not visited by a census officer.
  • Ambiguity: It also leaves ambiguity over migrant labour, who may well be citizens but would not qualify as “usual residents”.

Conclusion

Government need to be sure about this exercise in terms of cost associated with it, the issues and repercussions. Since the exercise is the basis for the upcoming NRC, it is the duty of the government to come forward and clear each doubt relating to the issue of NPR and NRC.

In the past, reports have stated that Aadhaar data has been compromised on multiple occasions even as the UIDAI continues to deny that there have been breaches. There needs to have clarity over the privacy concerns surrounding the amount of data being collected in NPR.

It needs to learn lesson from such similar exercise in Assam i.e. NRC. Then only it will be able to serve as the mother database to verify citizenship if a nationwide NRC is carried out later.

Links to follow:

CENSUS: http://censusindia.gov.in/2011-Common/FAQs.html

Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

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