The home ministry has convened a conference of chief secretaries on Friday to allay fears that the National Population Register would end up conferring citizenship upon illegal immigrants.
Government sources said the conference was being convened in the backdrop of fears expressed by opposition leaders, particularly those from the BJP, that recording nationality as declared by residents during the enumeration process would imply recognising their claims.
BJP leader L.K. Advani had also written to the prime minister last month expressing these apprehensions.
A senior government official said the Centre intended to seek the feedback of the states after explaining the safeguards incorporated by the Census Commissioner at the conference convened by Home Secretary G.K. Pillai.
For one, officials said every list of usual residents would have a disclaimer making it clear that inclusion in the list of usual residents was no certificate of a person’s citizenship. “In fact, even the identity card that is being proposed by the home ministry would have this disclaimer,” an official said.
The government would be free to ask residents to produce proof of citizenship at a later date and penalise residents who were found to have wrongly claimed to be citizens, the official said.
Theoretically, the government is also free to freeze the register of usual residents a few years later and put fresh requests for inclusion much more rigorous.