Mamata Banerjee retreats on NPR, stays all work related to it
The Bengal government Monday evening announced suspending work on the National Population Register (NPR).
Under pressure from various quarters, the Mamata Banerjee government on Monday stepped back from the process of updating the National Population Register (NPR), which will be conducted across the country in 2020 for the census of 2021.
NPR, in which every usual resident of India must enlist, was first prepared in 2010 and updated in 2015. The 2020 exercise is to be conducted during April-September 2020. According to a central government document available in the public domain, “The creation of NPR is the first step towards preparation of the NRIC (National Register of Indian Citizens).”
In a notification issued to the magistrates of all districts on Monday, the additional secretary of census cell at the home department wrote, “I am directed to inform you that all activities regarding the preparation/updation of the National Population Register (NPR) are hereby stayed in West Bengal. No activity regarding NPR may be taken up without prior clearance from the government of West Bengal. This order is issued in the interest of public order.”
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Over the past few days, Left parties, various rights groups and socio-religious organizations had repeatedly alleged that NRIC is just another name for nation-wide National Register of Citizens (NRC) and questioned Banerjee’s sincerity in the fight against NRC because of her government’s backing for the NPR.
Three rallies opposing NRC and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) are scheduled in Kolkata on December 18 and 19 from where the speakers were supposed to question Banerjee’s stance on NRC, citing the state administration’s preparations for NPR.
Monday’s notification comes six days after the district magistrate of Howrah asked administrative officers to urgently identify and appoint enumerators for updation of NPR along with the house-listing phase of census and submit the list by December 23.
On Monday, Left parties and rights organisations claimed that the government’s latest move is “a victory of people’s movement.”
“This is a victory of the movement organised by Left parties, rights organizations and the civil society that mounted pressure on the state government to scrap the process of NPR. The government was planning to quietly felicitate the process but backed out after we exposed its plan,” said Md Salim, a politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s state unit president Dilip Ghosh slammed Mamata Banerjee’s party, Trinamool Congress (TMC) for “borrowing all the evils from the Left.”
“Mamata Banerjee has become so much dependent on Bangladeshi infiltrators that she has no option but to keep harming the interests of the country, come what may. The government has launched an all-out attack against India’s Constitution,” said Ghosh, a Lok Sabha MP from Midnapore.
Rights activist Ranjit Sur said that the state government’s move may have come as a desperate bid to defuse the spirit of the rallies scheduled over the coming few days.
“It is evident that she did not want her sincerity against citizenship screening exercise to be questioned, especially at a time there is a great deal of confusion and panic among people,” said Sur, a leader of Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, Bengal’s largest human rights organisation.