The NPR is the first step towards creation of National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) by verifying the citizenship status of every usual residents, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, had declared in the Rajya Sabha.
‘It has been decided that National Population Register (NPR) should be completed and taken to its logical conclusion, which is the creation of National Register of Indian Citizen (NRIC),’ he said in a written reply on 13 May 2015.
The National Population Register (NPR) was meant to be a register of all the usual residents of a city, town or village, of both citizens and non-citizens. But since 2014, notwithstanding what the Prime Minister said at Ramlila Maidan on December 22, the Ministry of Home Affairs had repeatedly claimed that the NPR would be the first step towards creation of a National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) by verifying the citizenship status of the usual residents.
While the Home Minister claimed that the government had no proposal to merge the existing Aadhar database to the NPR, Rijiju once again had informed Parliament that the biometrics enrolment in the 12 NPR States/UTs, namely J&K, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Assam, West Bengal, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli would be completed by June, 2015 in a written reply to Dr. T.N. Seema in the Rajya Sabha.
So much for transparency, honesty and truth.
The NPR, reports suggest, will require people to declare the date & place of birth of parents and furnishing data on 21 other points (compared to 14 questions asked in 2010). Most of this data was not collected in the last NPR exercise in 2010.
While 12 CMs have said ‘no’ to the NRC, Kerala & West Bengal CMs have decided to not proceed on NPR as well. With the Government being on record as saying that the National Population Register is the base document from where work on the NRC would start, the denials by the Prime Minister and the Home minister have little credibility.
The idea of the NPR came after the Kargil war in 1999, when Pakistani soldiers and infiltrators were said to have entered India in civilian clothes and remained undetected till they occupied Indian army posts at high altitude, abandoned in the winter.
A conference of all chief ministers on internal security was held in November, 2001 when the idea of a multipurpose national identity card was proposed and the idea of a National Population Register was mooted to identify citizens from aliens.
Office of the Registrar General of India was asked to formulate the rules and it is believed that he had proposed collecting biometric details of the population, years before the UPA government gave the go-ahead to the Aadhaar project.
Several ministries and state governments had evinced interest in the multipurpose identity card. The ministry of road transport wanted to eliminate duplicate licences while state governments sought to collect data to monitor their welfare schemes. Details of religion and caste were sought, ostensibly to understand how the welfare schemes were helping different groups of people.
Aadhaar, however, envisaged a unique, 11-digit number, not card, as proof of identity. With a large section of the poor migrating in search of work from one state to another, it was argued, their unique biometric details would help in establishing their identity, no matter where they moved. Altaf Ansari would be able to prove that he is Altaf Ansari even if he moved from Bihar to Kerala, because his biometric details would be unique to him. His Aadhaar number could be verified with a call to the unique data base maintained by the UIDAI, it was claimed.
But while Aadhaar was to provide proof of identity, it was not a proof of citizenship. People, however, moved the court and challenged random collection of data by government agencies.
But even as the Supreme Court ordered UIDAI not to share the data, there were reports of data leak and allegations of misuse. The leakage of data led political parties to find where Muslims and Dalits, for example, lived. The court was apprised of political parties misusing Aadhaar data for profiling voters.
States are said to have carried out their own surveys too. Telangana started it first and did a gigantic survey by asking people to go to their home towns, unlike the Census in which details are recorded where people live.
Activists also alleged that Andhra Pradesh used an app to combine census figures including livestock, agriculture and fisheries. The data was again allegedly used to profile voters and a large number of voters allegedly found their names deleted from the electoral roll in 2018.
The 2021 Census data are expected to be used for delimitation of constituencies in 2026. The apprehension is that the revised NPR and an eventual NRC conducted before 2024 will then be linked to Aadhaar and Census data in the delimitation of constituencies and disenfranchisement of voters.