National Population Register exercise on despite protests, pilot project started
Despite the opposition against National Population Register (NPR) - a biometric database of ordinary residents of India - preparations are on in full swing to update it. Enumerators are being trained to collect data and a “pre-test” or pilot project has already started.
The NPR first came into being in 2010 and was updated in 2015. Unlike the Census database, which protects the data released and is keep records up to block and Tehsils, the NPR is household specific and data is not protected. The NPR records data like name, age, address, along with linking biometric data like Aadhar, mobile phone and passport among others.
The government had initially said that updation of NPR would be followed by a National Register of Citizens (NRC) wherein individuals are supposed to prove their citizenship either by birth or by naturalisation. Those left out of NRC would then have to appeal to Foreigners’ Tribunals to be regarded as citizens.
There have been country-wide protests against NPR and NRC, some of which even turned violent. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was, however, quick to assure the fears and at a rally in Delhi said that no decision has been taken by his government on NRC.
“We expect the protest and resistance to die down as people are made aware of why NPR is required,” a senior government official who didn’t want to be named said. The government has maintained that NPR data will help frame developmental policies better.
The BJP, along side the government’s campaign to raise awareness on NPR, is also doing a door-to-door campaign. It hopes to touch five crore households by February this year. Home Minister Amit Shah also did a similar campaign in Delhi.
In addition to this, the Centre hopes that states like West Bengal, Kerala who have been at the forefront of opposition to NPR and NRC will also come around given the benefits an updated NPR would bring to administering government schemes.