Citizenship and Related Issues

Digital Census and Self-enumeration through NPR Update


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Population Register (NPR)

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • The article discusses implementation of a digital Census and the option for citizens to self-enumerate through updating their National Population Register (NPR) details online.

What is the news?

  • Census 2021, the first digital Census, will allow citizens to “self-enumerate” when it is conducted.
  • The government has not announced the date for the Census yet, and a notification from January 2, 2023, indicates that the exercise is postponed until at least September.

What is National Population Register (NPR)?

  • The NPR is a register that records the usual residents of the country.
  • It is prepared at various levels, including local, sub-district, district, state, and national.
  • The creation of the NPR is governed by the provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  • It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR.
  • A usual resident is defined as a person who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more, or a person intending to reside for next 6 months or more.

Differences between NPR and Census

  • The census involves a detailed questionnaire, collecting information such as age, sex, marital status, occupation, religion, and more.
  • The NPR collects basic demographic data and biometric particulars.
  • The census is governed by the Census Act, 1948, while the NPR operates under a set of rules framed under the Citizenship Act, 1955.

Stipulated process for self-enumeration

  • Self-enumeration for the Census will be available only to households that have updated their NPR details online.
  • The Office of the Registrar General of India (ORGI), responsible for the Census, has developed a web-based “self-enumeration (SE)” portal, presently available in English.
  • The mobile-friendly portal, yet to be launched, will allow users to register their mobile numbers in the NPR database, self-enumerate, and fill in Houselisting Operations details.
  • During self-enumeration, the collection of Aadhaar or mobile numbers is mandatory.

How are NPR and NRC related?

  • According to the Citizenship Rules 2003, the NPR is the initial step in compiling the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC/NRC).
  • The NPR was updated in 2015, but new questions were added as part of a trial exercise involving 30 lakh respondents in September 2019.
  • The exercise is seen as a step towards the compilation of the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRC) as per the Citizenship Rules, 2003.

What about data confidentiality?

  • While similar data is collected through the Census, individual data remains confidential under Section 15 of the Census Act, 1948.
  • Only aggregated data is released at administrative levels.
  • Data collected under the NPR are shared with states and used by the Central government for various welfare schemes at the individual level.

Way forward

To ensure the success of the digital Census and self-enumeration process, the government should consider the following:

  • Conduct thorough awareness campaigns to educate citizens about the self-enumeration process and its benefits.
  • Provide multi-language support on the self-enumeration portal to accommodate diverse language preferences.
  • Address concerns regarding data privacy and security to build trust among citizens.
  • Establish a robust support system to assist citizens in case of technical issues or questions during self-enumeration.
  • Regularly update and improve the self-enumeration portal based on user feedback to enhance user experience and ease of use.


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