The Union government proposes to update the existing National Population Register (NPR), which already has an electronic database of more than 119 crore residents, by verifying the details of all respondents through house-to-house enumeration, according to an official manual on conducting the fresh NPR exercise.
- Coupled with the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, which excludes Muslims, fears about an NPR-NRIC have brought lakhs of people onto the streets in protest.
- The data for National Population Register was collected in 2010 along with the house listing phase of the Census of India 2011.
- Updation of this data was done during 2015 by conducting door to door survey. The digitisation of the updated information has been completed.
- Now it has been decided to update the National Population Register along with the Houselisting phase of Census 2021 from April to September 2020 in all the States/UTs except Assam. Gazette notification to this effect has already been published by the Central Government.
- The center has allocated a budget of Rs 8,754 crores for census 2021 and Rs 3,941 crores for updating the NPR.
- The NPR is a register of residents of the country with demographic and biometric details.
- The 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 objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country. The database would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars.
- Getting entered in the NPR is mandatory for all residents irrespective of whether they are Indian or foreign nationals.
- The particulars of every family and individual found in the Population Register “shall be verified and scrutinized by the Local Registrar.
- Once the basic details of the head of the family are taken by the enumerator, an acknowledgment slip will be issued. This slip may be required for enrolment in NPR.
- And, once the details are recorded in every local (village or ward), sub-district (tehsil or taluk), district and state level, there will be a population register at each of these levels. Together, they constitute the National Population Register.
- In the process, details of those “whose citizenship is doubtful” will be entered with a comment suggesting further inquiry.
- The RGI (Registrar General of India (RGI) under the Home Ministry) has already begun a pilot project in over 1,200 villages and 40 towns and cities through 5,218 enumeration blocks, where it is collecting various data from people. Digitization of the updated information has been completed.
What kind of data will NPR collect?
- 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 to education and occupation, that the RGI is supposed to collect in the NPR.
- For biometric data it will depend on Aadhaar, for which it will seek Aadhaar details of the residents.
- Apart from this, in a test run going on across the country, the RGI is seeking details of mobile number, Aadhaar, PAN card, Driving Licence, Voter ID card and passport (in case the resident is Indian).
- It is also working to update the Civil Registration System of birth and death certificates.
- In the 2010 exercise, the RGI had collected only demographic details. In 2015, it updated the data further with the mobile, Aadhaar and ration card numbers of residents. In the 2020 exercise, it has dropped the ration card number but added other categories.
- Registering with the NPR is mandatory, furnishing of additional data such as PAN, Aadhaar, driving licence and voter ID is voluntary because making it mandatory will invite unnecessary litigation.
- No document is being asked for or being verified against the details provided. The pilot project has shown that almost all the people are willing to share this data.
- The NPR manual states that in cases where date of birth or age was not known, the enumerator could help the respondent by “stimulating her/his memory” with reference to historical events or will have to estimate her/his age by using your best judgment.
Who is a usual resident of India?
Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 define that a usual resident of a locality is an individual who has resided there over the past 6 months or the person who wishes to reside in the locality over the next 6 months.
Difference between NPR and Census
NPR collects basic demographic data and biometric particulars.
A usual resident for the purposes of NPR is a person who has resided in a place for six months or more, and intends to reside there for another six months or more.
Population Census is the total process of collecting, compiling, analyzing or otherwise disseminating demographic, economic and social data pertaining, at a specific time, of all persons in a country or a well-defined part of a country.
The details found in the census about individuals are far more comprehensive and inclusive.
Better targeting and delivery of benefits and services under the government was one of the early objectives of the NPR.
For better policies: it will help the government formulate its policies better and also aid national security.
Streamlining data of residents across various platforms: 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.
The data collected through the census are used for administration, planning and policy making as well as management and evaluation of various programmes by the government, NGOs, researchers, commercial and private enterprises, etc.
Census data is also used for demarcation of constituencies and allocation of representation to parliament, State legislative Assemblies and the local bodies.
Data for the NPR was first collected in 2010, and updated in 2015.
The next phase of NPR will also be updated along with House listing and Housing Census except in Assam along with Census exercise between April to September 2020 ahead of the Census slated for 2021.
The last census was in 2011, and the next will be done in 2021 (and will be conducted through a mobile phone application)
The census involves a detailed questionnaire — there were 29 items to be filled up in the 2011 census — aimed at eliciting the particulars of every person, including age, sex, marital status, children, occupation, birthplace, mother tongue, religion, disability and whether they belonged to any Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.
It is generated through house-to-house enumeration during the “house-listing” phase of the census, which is held once in 10 years.
It would be conducted in two phases:
- House listing and Housing Census - April to September, 2020 and
- Population Enumeration - 9th February to 28th February, 2021.
The NPR is a mechanism outlined in a set of rules framed under the Citizenship Act, 1955
The Census Act, 1948 and the Census Rules, 1990 provide the legal framework for conduct of Census.
The Registrar General of India shall act as the “National Registration Authority” (and will function as the Registrar General of Citizen Registration).
The Registrar General is also the country’s Census Commissioner.
Why does the government want so much data?
- Efficient Internal Security Management & Need Based Policy Making : Every country must have a comprehensive identity database of its residents with relevant demographic details. The govt. says it will help the government formulate its policies better and also aid national security.
- Targeted Delivery: It will 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.
- Streamlining data of residents across various platforms: 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.
- Data as a public good: The Economic Survey 2018-19 has said data must be treated as a public good, which can be used for social welfare and also be monetised to 'ease pressure on government finances,' but cautioned that privacy implications of anonymised information needs to be factored in.
Concerns with NPR:
- Data Misuse - There might be voter targeting by political parties and fears of societal fragmentation & rise of communalism on making the data public.
- Privacy issue: Even as a debate continues on Aadhaar and privacy, the NPR intends to collect a much larger amount of personal data on residents of India. India still lacks a data policy for safeguarding personal data.
- NPR and Aadhaar: Deduplication issue
- Earlier, there was a conflict between the Union Home Ministry, which administers the NPR, and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), leaving the impression that there was duplication of work.
- Those already enrolled for Aadhaar need not give their biometric details again during NPR.
- At the same time, data captured for NPR would be sent to UIDAI for “de-duplication”.
- In case of discrepancy between Aadhaar and NPR data, the latter would prevail.
- Connection with National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC): After a list of residents is created, a nationwide NRC could go about verifying the citizens from that list. The government said that there was “no link between NPR and NRC”, but the 2003 Citizenship Rules clearly provide for the creation of NRIC / NRC that will flow from data gathered in the NPR.
About the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC)
- The NRIC is an official record of those who are legal Indian citizens.
- It includes demographic information about all those individuals who qualify as citizens of India as per the Citizenship Act, 1955.
- The register was first prepared after the 1951 Census of India and since then it has not been updated until recently. So far, such a database has only been maintained for the state of Assam.
- Data to be collected: As per the Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards rules 2003, the ‘National Register of Indian Citizens’ will present details of every Indian citizen.
- Levels involved: The NRIC will be prepared at the local, sub-district, district and state levels after verifying the citizenship status of the residents.
- Legislation: According to Section 14A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 (which was inserted in 2004), the Central Government may compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue a national identity card to him; and it may maintain a National Register of Indian Citizens.
- Documents needed to establish citizenship:
- The government is yet to notify a date for generation of the NRIC.
- It has not yet prescribed rules for the sort of documentary proof that would be required to prove citizenship.
- The government says any document that shows the date of birth or place of birth, or both, will be sufficient. Those unable to produce documents may produce witnesses or other proof supported by members of the community.
Stages in preparation of NRIC
National Identity cards: Section 14A of the Citizenship Act, provides for the issue of National Identity cards to Indian citizens. An NRIC is to be the base for the issue of National Identity Cards.
Difference between the National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Indian Citizens (NRC)
- Usual residents: As per Citizenship Rules 2003, a Population Register is a register containing details of persons usually residing in a village or rural area or town or ward or demarcated area (demarcated by the Registrar General of Citizen Registration) within award in a town or urban area.
- The NPR is not a citizenship enumeration drive, as it would record even a foreigner staying in a locality for more than six months.
- NPR’s scope and purpose are limited and for entering the person to the list, the details presented by the individual by word of mouth are only considered and no documented proof is required as mandated in the case of NRC.
- Citizens: As per Citizenship Rules 2003, the National Register of Indian Citizens is a register containing details of Indian Citizens living in India and outside India.
- Excludes foreign citizens
- NRIC is a subset of the NPR: The NPR is the first step towards establishing the NRIC. The NRC under the Citizenship Amendment Act 2003 may be a sub-part of the NPR.
Who is a citizen of India?
Citizenship Provisions in the Constitution: The Constitution does not lay down a permanent or comprehensive provision relating to citizenship in India.
Articles 5 to 11 (Part II of the Constitution) describes classes of persons for citizenship at the time of commencement of the Constitution (26th January 1950).
It leaves the entire law of citizenship to be regulated by law made by Parliament.
Center’s upper hand:
- The Census Act of 1948 was amended in 1994 inserting Section 4A. This makes it binding on the state governments to support the Census exercise launched the Centre.
- Rule 5 of the Citizenship Rules 2003 makes it binding on state governments and local authorities to assist the Registrar General of Citizen Registration or any person authorized by him in this behalf for preparation of NPR database.
- After the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 was passed on December 11, there are fears that those excluded from NPR-NRC will be sent to detention centers.
- Assam problem: Nearly 19 lakh people were excluded from the final Assam NRC list. Those who have been excluded may move Foreigners Tribunals (FTs) and can also appeal to the courts if the FTs give a verdict against them. This process has not started yet.
About foreign tribunals
- The Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 was issued by the Central Government under Section 3 of The Foreigners Act, 1946. It is applicable to the whole country.
- The tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies, to determine if a person staying illegally is a “foreigner” or not. There are 100 foreigners tribunals functioning in Assam.
- Composition: Judges and advocates are appointed as the members of the FT under the Foreigners Tribunal Act, 1941 and Foreigners Tribunal Order 1964.
- Amendment: Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs, amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 which empowers district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up tribunals.
- Earlier such powers to constitute tribunals vested with the MHA (Central government) only.
How illegal foreigners’ are deported?
- In other states, once a ‘foreigner’ has been apprehended by the police for staying illegally, he or she is produced before a local court under the Passport Act, 1920, or the Foreigners Act, 1946, with the punishment ranging three months to eight years in jail.
- Once the accused have served the sentence, the court orders their deportation, and they are moved to detention centers until the country of origin accepts them.
About detention centers
- Detention centers are set up to house illegal immigrants or foreigners who have completed their jail sentence but their deportation process to the country concerned has not been initiated or completed.
- It is also set up to accommodate foreign convicts in criminal cases who have completed their jail terms and await deportation.
- The legislative base of detention centers: The Centre has the power to deport foreign nationals staying illegally in the country under Section 3(2)(c) of The Foreigners Act, 1946. State governments have also been entrusted under Article 258(1) of the Constitution to take similar steps.
- Concerns: Mr. Mander as Minorities Monitor for the National Human Rights Commission submitted a report which had highlighted how men, women and boys above six years lodged in detention centers in Assam were separated from members of their families.
- The state does not make any distinction, for all practical purposes, between detention centers and jails; and thus between detainees and ordinary inmates.
- The jail authorities appear to apply the Assam Jail Manual to them, but deny them even the benefits, like parole, waged work, etc., that the inmates get under the jail rules.
- States' opposition: West Bengal and Kerala have put on hold the construction of detention centers as they are opposing NRIC.
Features of ‘Model Detention Centre/Holding Centre/Camp Manual’
- The manual says that States require “no specific approval” from the Home Ministry to set up “detention centers/holding centers/ camps”.
- It lays down that centers should be set up outside the jail premises and their numbers and size should be decided by the States keeping in view the actual number of foreigners to be housed as well as the progress in deportation proceedings.
- On completion of the sentence of the foreigner, the jail authorities concerned may hand over the foreign national to the authority in charge of the detention center.
- There should also be a provision to facilitate the stay of such foreigners in “metro” cities during the waiting period between their interview with the embassy concerned and issuance of travel documents.
- Well-lit, airy rooms adhering to basic hygiene standards and equipped with electricity, water and communication facilities are to be provided at the center.
- It should be ensured that members of the same family are not separated and all family members are housed in the same detention center.”
- No restrictions shall be imposed to meet family members.
- It also asks states to pay special attention to the needs of women, nursing mothers, transgenders and open a crèche in the camp.
- The manual says, “Children lodged in [a] detention center may be provided educational facilities by admitting them in local schools.”
International Legal Framework Applicable to India
1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948: Article 15 states that: Everyone has the right to a nationality. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
2. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966: It states the commitment of state parties to uphold civil and political rights.
3. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), 1966: The framework of the Covenant seeks to secure, amongst the State parties, economic, social and cultural rights to all persons. By being denied citizenship or nationality, these rights are effectively denied to a stateless person, thus excluding him from the loop of human rights itself.
- A central authority: It is recommended that India may create a set up a central authority for the purpose of identification and determination of statelessness and illegal migrants.
- Nearly 80 countries have acceded to the 1954 UN Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons. Many of them have additionally set up national determination procedures for citizenship.
- Stateless persons: As the Indian government currently has the on-going projects of Aadhar and NPR, it is recommended that a separate category of 'stateless persons' be added to the data collection involved in these two projects.
- Awareness campaigns: Holding nationality campaigns or nationality verification camps so that more people become aware of and determine their citizenship.
- Establishing the burden of proof: The Indian authority delegated with this responsibility could adopt the concept of 'shared burden of proof' in the case of stateless persons, asylum seekers, and refugees.
Also read: National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam