The Communist Kerala government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in a controversial decision has ordered a stay on all activities relating to the updation of National Population Register (NPR) in the state scheduled to be held in April 2020.
Through an order issued on Friday late evening, the left government in the state stayed all activities connected with the updation of NPR. “Considering the apprehensions among the general public about the conduct of NPR related activities would lead to the national register of citizens (NRC) in the wake of the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019, the state government orders to stay all the activities connected with the updation of NPR in the state,” the order issued by general administration department principal secretary KR Jyothilal said.
While the government order said the NPR had been put on hold in view of the “apprehensions” of the public that it would lead to the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a statement from the Chief Minister’s Office said the action was taken as the NPR “deviates from Constitutional values” and also because the matter was before the Supreme Court.
The BJP government has decided to prepare a National Population Register (NPR) by September 2020 to lay the foundation for rolling out a citizens’ register across the country.
The objective of the NPR 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 said that a usual resident is defined for the purposes of NPR as 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 and that it is mandatory for every usual citizen to register with NPR.
The data for National Population Register was actually collected in 2010 alongwith the house listing phase of Census of India 2011. The updation of this data was done during 2015 by conducting door to door survey. The digitisation of the updated information has been completed. Now it has been decided to update the National Population Register along with the Houselisting phase of Census 2021 during April to September 2020 in all the States/UTs except Assam. Gazette notification to this effect has already been published by the Central Government.
Interestingly, while the opposition continues to call CAA and NRC including NPR ‘communal’, NPR, according to the Census website does not require the religion of the person to be mentioned at all.
The updation of NPR, the fieldwork of which is carried out by the state government, was scheduled between April 15 and May 29 next year in Kerala. The Left government in Kerala who had earlier agreed to participate in the process has now taken a U-turn saying the process “deviates from constitutional values”.
Earlier this week, the West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee had also decided to stay all activities relating to the preparation and updation of the NPR in the eastern state amid the furore over the CAA.
The BJP has reacted sharply to the Bengal government’s stay. The party’s national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who has been camping in West Bengal since the protests started against the Citizenship Amendment Act, called it “irresponsible politics by Mamata Banerjee”.
“If she is so disturbed and upset by the Act, why did her MPs not mention all these during the debate in Parliament? Why did eight of her MPs remain absent in Lok Sabha on the day? These are instances of cheap politics and theatrics,” said Vijayvargiya.