What is the National Population Register (NPR)?

India Nov 27, 2020

Throughout December 2019 and February 2020, India was awash with protests against the much contentious CAA and NRC. Critics of the policies claimed that the laws were premised on Islamophobic sentiment and hence must be withdrawn by the government. Amidst the clamor and confusion, the government also began deliberating on the prospects of a National Population Register (NPR). But what exactly is the NPR? What are its origins? And how is it different from the NRC?

What is the NPR?

The NPR (National Population Register) is a register of the usual residents of the country, consisting of information collected at the local, sub-district, district, state, and national level under the terms of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

(A ‘usual’ resident, for the purpose of NPR, is defined as someone who has been residing in a local area for the last six months or more, or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next six months.)

The NPR was first conducted by the UPA Government in 2010 and later, in 2015 when it was linked to the Aadhar.

The NPR is conducted under the aegis of the Registrar General and ex-officio Census Commissioner. It was decided that the process of collection of data for the NPR would start in April 2020 and conclude by September but this was rendered unfeasible thanks to the pandemic.  

How is it different from the Census?

Many people rallying against the contentious proposals of the Government tended to confuse the NPR with the Census. Census is the systematic acquisition of information relating to the people of a country. In India, Census officials collect information on a variety of characteristics. These include demography, education and literacy, economic activities, housing, urbanization, fertility and mortality, religion, etc. However, NPR is a “comprehensive identity database of the usual residents”, only concerned with the accumulation of demographic particulars such as name, parents’ names, sex, date and place of birth, marital status, nationality, etc. Thus, it is unwise to equate the Census to the NPR.

How is it different from the NRC?At the heart of the dissenters’ arguments was the NRC (National Register of Citizens). As clarified by Home Minister Amit Shah, the NPR and NRC are not linked in any way. While the NPR is a database of people living in India, citizens or not, the NRC is an index of Indian citizens. The NRC seeks to identify and extradite illegal immigrants, which means that there is a high risk of people losing their Indian citizenship. However, Home Minister Shah confirmed that no one would lose their citizenship as a result of the NPR. The only function of the NPR, as he stated, is to create a comprehensive identity database of the direct beneficiaries of governmental policies. Lastly, the NRC demands proof of citizenship of the respondents, which can be furnished via voter cards, passports, Aadhaar, licenses, insurance papers, birth certificates, school leaving certificates, documents relating to land or home, or other similar documents issued by government officials. On the contrary, NPR doesn’t demand any documents.

This article has been written by Ishaan Singh for The Paradigm

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