The Union Cabinet on Tuesday approved fund allocation for updating the National Population Register (NPR), putting the official stamp on a revised pan-India list of “usual residents”, but attempted to distance the exercise from the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The government said NPR would be linked to the 2021 Census, and would not require a documentation process on the lines of the recently concluded NRC in Assam.
A “usual resident” for the purposes of NPR is defined as a person who has lived in a local area for the past six months or more, or a person who intends to live in that area for at least the next six months. Unlike NRC, which is a citizenship enumeration drive, NPR also includes foreigners staying in a locality for more than six months.
“No biometric, no proof or documents need to be given for NPR. We trust our people and so, self-certification will be sufficient in NPR,” said Union information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar, while announcing that the Cabinet approved Rs 8,754.23 crore for the Census of India 2021 and Rs 3,941.35 crore for the updation of NPR.
Later, in an interview, Union home minister Amit Shah categorically said that NPR is not related to NRC and the data of NPR would not be used in NRC.
He also disapproved allegations that the Narendra Modi-led government is constructing detention centres and said that the amended citizenship act can only provide the same to a person but can’t snatch away citizenship.
The Opposition, however, described the process as the first step towards a nationwide NRC, a proposed exercise that has led to mass protests across the country over the past two weeks, particularly over its possible link with recent amendments to the citizenship law.
Two chief ministers, Mamata Bannerjee of West Bengal and Pinarayi Vijayan of Kerala suspended the NPR updation process this month on these grounds.
To underline the contrast between NPR and NRC, Javadekar said: “No biometric, no proof or documents need to be given for NPR. We trust our people and so, self-certification will be sufficient in NPR.”
According to a note issued in July by the office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, under the aegis of the ministry of home affairs (MHA), “the objective of NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country”.
The process for NPR was first explained in 2003, when the central government issued the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules.