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Insights into Editorial: The National Population Register, and the controversy around it

Insights into Editorial: The National Population Register, and the controversy around it



In the backdrop of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam excluding 19 lakhs among the 3.3 crore who had applied, the resurrection of the National Population Register (NPR) project has added to the uncertainty around the idea of citizenship in the country.

Even as issues of privacy associated with Aadhaar continue to be debated in the country, the NPR is on a drive to collect detailed data on residents of India.

What has added to the conversation is Home Minister floating the idea of “one nation, one card” and asserting that the NRC would be implemented across the country.


What is National Population Register (NPR)?

The National Population Register (NPR) is a register of the ‘usual’ residents of the country.

A usual resident is defined as a person who has resided in a local area for the past six months or more, or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.

The database under the NPR will be maintained by the Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner of India, Ministry of Home Affairs.

The NPR is prepared at the local (Village or sub-Town), sub-District, District, State and National level, under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

It will be mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR.

The exercise will be carried out during the house-listing phase of Census 2021, during April to September 2020, in all the states and union territories, except Assam, where a National Register of Citizens was recently released.


Differences between Census and NPR:

There are two crucial differences between the census and NPR processes.

First, the census doesn’t ask for individual identity details, and at the end of the day, is a macro exercise.

The NPR, on the other hand, is designed to collect identity details of every individual.

The second is that census data is protected by a confidentiality clause. The government has committed that it will not reveal information received from an individual for the headcount.

Officials said the NPR would serve as the mother database to verify citizenship if a nationwide NRC is carried out later.

The home ministry used the example of the Ujjwala scheme, under which subsidised gas cylinders are given to below-poverty-line families, to underline the importance of data in shaping welfare policy.


Positives of National Population Register (NPR) project:

  • Population census is an exercise that helps to provide people the benefits of the government schemes. National Population Register will help government solve many issues in the country.
  • A digital NPR will help in solving several issues, like law and order and gender equality.
  • It would be a solution to the multifarious problems facing the country – from effective maintenance of law and order to an efficient implementation of welfare schemes like MGNREGA, food security and nutrition campaigns.
  • NPR will prove to be a game changer in the country. Digital census has many benefits.
  • If a child takes birth and attains the age of 18, then he/she should be able to vote automatically without applying for a voter identification card.
  • A Census helps us plan our social welfare and entitlement schemes better, through NPR India would have a multipurpose identity document that will have all details like Aadhaar and PAN card.


However, Data privacy reservations:

  • The fact that Aadhaar details will be added to the NPR database has given rise to concerns of data privacy.
  • The NPR has raised anxieties around the idea of citizenship in the country.
  • 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.
  • The idea of conducting a nationwide NRC would only happen on the basis of the upcoming NPR.
  • After a list of residents is created, a nationwide NRC could go about verifying the citizens from that list.
  • In the past, reports have stated that Aadhaar data has been compromised on multiple occasions even as the UIDAI continues to deny that there have been breaches.
  • The personal data that the government is planning to collect for NPR is quite large and there are concerns whether the government is equipped to protect the citizens’ data.
  • Apart from data privacy, concern has also been voiced over the exercise as a whole.
  • NPR will be the base for a nationwide National Register of Citizens and will be similar to the list of citizens of Assam released recently.
  • During the NRC exercise, there were several instances where some members of a family featured in the draft list while the others did not.
  • The idea of NPR is a likely cause for worry since there could be such discrepancies in the NPR as well.



The 2021 census would conclude on March 1 midnight and a revisional round would be conducted between March 1, 2021 and March 5, 2021 to include them who left from the exercise.

It will be mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR.

While registering with the NPR is mandatory, furnishing of additional data such as PAN, Aadhaar, driving licence and voter ID is voluntary. Making it mandatory will invite unnecessary litigation.

The NPR will collect both demographic data and biometric data.

Using technology for collecting census data is a great idea, but enumerators should be trained adequately.

There are 15 different categories of demographic data, ranging from name and place of birth to education and occupation, that the Register General of India is supposed collect in the NPR.

For biometric data it will depend on Aadhaar, for which it will seek Aadhaar details of the residents.

As of now there is no proposal to make it mandatory. We are also reposing trust in citizens. 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.