[Burning Issue] National Population Register


  • The Union Cabinet has approved a proposal to conduct Census 2021 and update the National Population Register (NPR).
  • While the Census will be conducted in 2021, the NPR update will take place from April to September 2020 in all the States/UTs except Assam.

Focus shifts of Protestors: CAA TO NPR

  • While the row over the CAA brought thousands of people to the streets — with protests turning violent at many places – a fresh controversy erupted over the updating of the National Population Register (NPR).
  • The NPR is a register of residents of India where the enumerator collects demographic and biometric data of individuals living at the place of enumeration for six months or more.
  • Now, this turn of events where non-NDA ruled states started to halt an ongoing enumeration of residents (NPR) process left many confused, with the time to begin counting for the Census approaching fast.
  • Is the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act related to NPR? The answer is both yes and no. There is no direct link.
  • It depends on how the government decides to use data collected for NPR.

What is the National Population Register (NPR)?

  • The NPR is a register of usual residents of the country. It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR.
  • It includes both Indian citizens as well as a foreign citizen.
  • The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country.
  • The first NPR was prepared in 2010 and updating this data was done during 2015 by conducting door to door survey.
  • The next update of the NPR will take place next year from April to September with the Houselisting phase of the Census 2021.
  • It is being prepared at the local (Village/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.

Who is the usual resident?

  • According to the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, a usual resident is a person who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.

The Census of India

  • The Census is the enumeration of the population of the country.
  • It is being conducted at an interval of 10 years.
  • The Census 2021 will be 16th census in the country since the first census happened in 1872. However, it will be 8th census after the Independence.
  • For the first time, the Census 2021 will use the Mobile App for data collection. It will also provide a facility to the public for self-enumeration.

What is the whole issue?

Issues with the states

  • Citizenship, aliens and naturalization are subject matters listed in List 1 of the Seventh Schedule that fall exclusively under the domain of Parliament.
  • Legally, the states have no say in implementing or ruling out NPR.
  • However, given that the manpower is drawn from the states, the defiance could potentially result in a showdown.

Issues with NPR

  • Census is an exercise carried out under the Census Act, 1948. Census data is based on self-declaration made by the persons without verification.
  • NPR is carried out as per the 2003 Citizenship Rules. Under these Rules, it is compulsory for a person to share the demographic data for preparation of NPR.
  • Therefore, these Rules have a coercive element, as they penalize non-cooperating persons with fines and penalties.
  • Failure to comply with the NPR data collection can expose one to penal consequences under Rule 17.
  • It may be noted that both these processes are carried under the supervision of a single office: the Office of Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner.

Privacy Concern

  • Officials insist that NPR information is private and confidential, meaning it will not be shared with third parties. 
  • There is no clarity on the mechanism for protection of the vast amount of data that will be collected through NPR.

Census vs. NPR

  • The census is decadal headcount in India. It involves a detailed questionnaire aimed at gathering general data about the population of India.
  • The NPR process collects demographic and biometric particulars of individuals.
  • Both processes involve door-to-door enumeration but NPR differs from the Census in the sense that its objective is to have a comprehensive identity database of those residing in India.
  • The Census does not identify individuals.
  • However, in Census 2021, this distinction may no longer exist as the government is said to be planning to conduct it through a mobile phone application.
  • Moreover, Census data are kept and maintained centrally under the Registrar General of India.
  • But once the NPR data are recorded and ready, these details would be kept and maintained in a population register at levels of village or ward, tehsil or taluk (sub-district), district and state.
  • Together, they will constitute the National Population Register with all data at the central level.

The link between NPR and NRC

  • The Citizenship Act empowers the government to compulsorily register every citizen and maintain a National Register of Indian Citizens.
  • A nationwide NRC — if undertaken — would flow out of NPR.
  • This does not necessarily mean that an NRC must follow NPR — no such register was compiled after the previous NPR in 2010.
  • After a list of residents is created, a nationwide NRC — if it happens — could go about verifying the citizens from that list.

What de-links NPR and NRC?

  • The NPR is different from the NRC which excludes the foreign citizens.
  • According to the Citizenship Rules 2003, a Population Register is ‘the register containing details of persons usually residing in a village or rural area or town or ward or demarcated area within a ward in a town or urban area.
  • Whereas the NRC is a register containing details of Indian Citizens living in India and outside India.

Advantages of NPR

  • NPR gives a comprehensive identity database of its residents with relevant demographic details. It will help the government formulate its policies better and also aid national security.
  • It will ease the life of those residing in India by cutting red tape. Not only will it help target government beneficiaries in a better way, but also further cut down paperwork and red tape in a similar manner that Aadhaar has done.
  • For instance, it is common to find a different date of birth of a person on different government documents. NPR will help eliminate that.
  • With NPR data, residents will not have to furnish various proofs of age, address and other details in official work.
  • It would also eliminate duplication in voter lists, the government insists.

Where Aadhaar does comes to the picture?

  • There is a little back story about NPR and Aadhaar. The two were considered rival projects under the UPA government.
  • When NPR process began in the government, P Chidambaram was the Union home minister, who pushed the population register project.
  • Both the NPR and Aadhaar projects were concurrently underway collecting demographic and biometric data.
  • Initially, both had better and targeted delivery of benefits and services to people as their objectives. The works of the UIDAI and the home ministry were viewed as duplication and wastage of resources.
  • The conflict, however, ended in a compromise between the home ministry and the UIDAI where it was decided that NPR and Aadhaar databases will be used for different purposes.
  • Aadhaar will deliver welfare services and NPR will be used for other purposes of governance.
  • It was also decided that those already enrolled for Aadhaar need not give their biometric details during NPR exercise.
  • The NPR data were to be matched with Aadhaar data for de-duplication. But the final formula gave NPR an upper hand.
  • It was agreed that in case of discrepancy between Aadhaar and NPR data, NPR would prevail.
  • Simply put, NPR conducted in accordance with the Citizenship Amendment Act 2003 will form the key data set for both Aadhaar and NRC.








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