National Population Register (NPR) v/s National Register for Citizens (NRC)

NPR and NRC have been the buzzwords in recent months. While the latter is in the news since the NRC exercise was conducted in Assam, the former is in limelight, of late, owing to the actions of the  Registrar General of India (RGI) under the Union Home Ministry. It recently pulled down a document with the latest form of the National Population Register (NPR) from its website, where the said form was part of the handbook for the Census of India 2021 exercise.

In this article, we shall be discussing various dimensions of the issue, present relevance, challenges and implications. Further, this article covers other important aspects, keeping in mind the demands of the preliminary as well as the main examination of the UPSC IAS Exam.

What is the National Population Register (NPR)?

  • The NPR is a list of usual residents of the country.
  • It is compulsory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR. 
  • This includes both Indian citizens and foreign citizens. 
  • The objective of the NPR is to create a database of every usual resident in the country. 
  • 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.
  • The data for the National Population Register was first collected in 2010 by the Government of India and would be repeated every 10 years.
  • The idea is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country. The database would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars.
  • The government has clarified that no documents will be required for NPR as self-declaration will be treated as enough for data entry in the population registrar.

Please follow this linked article for more details and discussion on the National Population Register, for UPSC IAS Exam notes and previous year questions relevant to the topic.

You can also learn about the discussion held in RSTV – Big Picture Episode on National Population Register in the linked article. 

Who is a Usual Resident?

A usual resident is defined for the purposes of NPR as 

  • Persons residing in a local area for the past six months or more.
  • Persons intending to reside in that area for the next six months or more.

Who is a Citizen of India?

As per the Citizenship Act, 1955, every person born in India

  •  On or after the 26th day of January 1950, but before the 1st day of July 1987.
  •  On or after the 1st day of July 1987, but before the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 and either of whose parents was a citizen of India at the time of his birth.
  • On or after the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003, where both of his parents are citizens of India; or one of those parents is a citizen of India and the other is not an illegal migrant at the time of his birth, shall be a citizen of India by birth.

Understand the Constitution provisions related to Citizenship in India at the linked article. 

What is a National Register of Citizens (NRC)?

  • It is an official, verified and valid record of all Indian citizens, containing various details of individual documents essential to establish their claim to citizenship.
  • It includes demographic information about all those individuals who qualify as citizens of

India as per the Citizenship Act, 1955.

  • First prepared after the 1951 Census of India, it has not been updated until recently.
  • A database of its nature has been maintained for the state of Assam.
  • However, the honourable Home Minister in one earlier parliamentary session mentioned its prospect of extending to other parts of the country.
  • NRC is one of its kind and will contain details of only Indian Citizens.

Please follow this linked article for notes, questions and comprehensive discussion on the National Register of Citizens, helpful for UPSC IAS exam preparation.

What about the NRC Exercise Carried Out in Assam?

  • The NRC exercise carried out in Assam is a list of Indian citizens living in the state.
  • The citizens’ register sets out to identify foreign nationals present in the state.
  • The process to update the register began following a Supreme Court order in 2013.
  •  The resident population was to prove that they were Indian nationals prior to March 24, 1971.
  • The updated final NRC was released on 31st August 2019.

What are the Positions of Stakeholders in the NRC vs NPR Debate?

  • The government has been consistent in its stand that NPR and NRC are independent lists, with no relationships between them.
  • In the words of honourable former Union Minister Prakash Javadekar – “NPR is a population registrar and not a citizens’ registrar. NPR has nothing to do with NRC.” 
  • The Citizenship Act empowers the government to compulsorily register every citizen and maintain a National Register of Indian Citizens.
  • The honourable Home Minister has maintained that there is no proposal at present to conduct a nationwide NRC based on the NPR data.
  • The position could be in line with similar stands of the past, where no such register was compiled after the previous NPR in 2010.

What is the need for vast amounts of data, and what are the concerns?

  • The Government seeks to have a  comprehensive identity database of its residents with demographic details.
  •  It is expected to help the government to prepare a credible register of every family and individual, strengthen security and seek improvement in the targeting of beneficiaries under various Central government schemes.
  • Collection of various data such as – driving licence, voter ID and PAN is expected to ease the life of citizens, cut red-tapism, and eliminate redundancy, discrepancy, the duplicity of documents, persisting due to various reasons.
  • Concerns of privacy and lack of clarity on mechanisms to protect the large amount of data collected by the government.

Also read: Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019

Conclusion

While the issues of citizenship, nativity and residence have been emotive issues for many, the fact that existing challenges for many to provide supporting documents must be taken into account and grievances of the affected or likely to be affected should be given a prompt hearing. At the same time, the collection of vast amounts of data and preparation of a credible, robust database for delivery of service is well thought and nobly intended. The concerns of privacy and data security must be addressed with transparency and flow of information, with the mechanisms put in place to check its misuse by third parties. 

Similarly, a broader framework for outreach, sharing authentic information with common citizens, spreading awareness must be evolved and put in place. It should check the possible exploitation by vested interests through misinformation, disinformation leading to apprehensions among citizens. Further, the process must be streamlined, and its implementation be studied gradually to adopt suitable policies as necessary for success and optimum result out of this exercise in the larger interest of development, democracy and transparency in administration.

This article is relevant for the sections of Polity and Current Affairs part of the UPSC Syllabus prescribed for Preliminary and Main Stages of Civil Services Exam. 

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