EXPLAINED: NRC AND NPR

INTRODUCTION

The first Modi ministry i.e. the current government has decided to prepare a national population register (NPR) by the year 2020. Such a register is expected to lay the foundations of introducing a register for the usual citizens of the country. This register is expected to be a basis or a building block for the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC), which is to become a pan-Indian version of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The NRC is the register maintained by the government of India which contains the names and other certain important and relevant information for the identification of the said citizens of the state of Assam especially. The idea of the NPR is to propagate an idea of such a register of information for the citizens of India, that could mark the country’s population; rather than just staying put to Assam.


NATIONAL REGISTER OF CITIZENS (NRC)

The NRC is specifically made for the state of Assam which was prepared after the first census of India in 1951 and since then the said register was not updated until recently.[1]

Under the ambit of NRC also comes The State Register of Assam. The state register after the amendment in the “Indian Citizenship Act” in 1955, was made legal throughout the said state. The register in it contains

“The names of all persons, whose names appeared at least in any of the Electoral Rolls published for any of the then assembly constituencies within the territorial limits of the present-day state of Assam up to midnight of 24 March 1971 and also of descendants of such persons presently having permanent residence within the state.”

As of the present day, any person residing in the state of Assam is also eligible to get his name entered in the register. Such eligibility is attained if the said person holds and submits to the registering authority any of the specified documents which were issued to him up to the midnight of 24 March 1971 against their name. The said person also is eligible for registry in NRC if the specified documents are registered in their ancestor’s name. such a step is taken to have proof that these people or their ancestors have been present on the territorial boundaries of the state of Assam.


BACKGROUND OF NRC

Due to the aftermath of the “Yanbado Treaty”, colonial Assam witnessed a lot of intermittent migration of Indian population from the rest of British Indian provinces.

{The Yanbado Treaty was a peace treaty that ended the first Anglo-Burmese war, where the Burmese were forced to accept the British terms without discussion where they ceded from Assam, Manipur, Rakhine (Arakan), and the Taninthayi (Tenasserim) coast south of the Salween River, finally making it British Assam}

Due to this “Yanbado Treaty,” a migration surged, especially that of Hindu Bengali people, from East Pakistan (Presently Bangladesh since 1971) after India's independence. This subsequently led to the partition of two separate countries namely the Hindu dominated India & Muslim dominated Pakistan (which was at that time divided into east and west Pakistan). Thus, India was surrounded by East Pakistan (present-day, Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (present-day, Pakistan) and there continued to be turmoil between the two.

“Following Partition and communal riots in the subcontinent, Assam initially saw an influx of refugees and other migrants from East Pakistan. The number of such migrants other than refugees was initially reported by the State Government to be between 1,50,000 and 2,00,000 but later estimated to be around 5,00,000.[2]

Due to such a civil war, the end of it and the formation of Bangladesh, Assam being close to present Bangladesh, migration started and continued in the state, illegally. To identify these illegal immigrants, the National Register of Citizens was prepared for the first time in Assam during the 1951 census.


METHODOLOGY

The mechanism to update the NRC was developed from scratch owing to the fact that such a task of identification, detection and recording the data of genuine citizens was not carried out in India or elsewhere ever. Moreover, it was more than 3 crore people and over 6.6 crore documents that were being taken into consideration for detection and identification. The inspection of such a large population was an intrinsic task needing specific attention, due process and hard work on the part of the authorities and the government.

The process of NRC Update was then divided into the following phases:

  1. Publication of Legacy Data

  2. Distribution & Receipt of Application Form

  3. Verification Process

  4. Publication of Part Draft NRC

  5. Complete Publication of Draft NRC

  6. Receipt and Disposal of Claims & Objections

  7. Publication of Final NRC


NATIONAL POPULATION REGISTER (NPR)

The NPR, unlike NRC, is a register of “usual residents” of the country.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, a “usual resident of the country” is one who has been residing in a local area for at least the last six months or intends to stay in a location for the next six months.[3] Unlike the NRC, the NPR is not a citizenship enumeration drive, as it would record even a foreigner staying in a locality for more than six months.

Data collection for NPR, according to the ministry, is to be done during the census of 2021; like the NRC being developed and built during the census of 1951. The data collection would also be done in conjunction with the “house listing phase (I)” by the Office of the Registrar General of India (RGI) under the Home Ministry. The state of Assam would be excluded in such a process as the NRC was updated recently.

The NPR will be prepared at the most basic and lowest levels i.e. the villages, sub-towns, the sub-districts and the districts and would also be built on a state and national level, so as the cover each and every “usual resident” of the country and to ensure that no one is left out in the process. It would be prepared under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

It would be mandatory for every usual resident of the country to be registered under the NPR.


CONTROVERSY AROUND NPR

As debates on Aadhar and privacy-related matters continue till date, NPR comes under the purview of scrutiny as it involves the collection of a much wider and more personal database of the residents of India. After the right to privacy was made a fundamental right due to article 21 of the Indian constitution, the Indian population has become more aware of privacy and personal security rights. The idea of a nationwide register of personal information is seen as a threat to the said right. Moreover, the NPR is also amongst a host of identity databases such as Aadhaar, voter card, passport and more than what the government said it would like to see combined into one card. “We will have to end all these separate exercises,” Shah said at the foundation stone laying ceremony for the new Office of Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner on Tuesday.[4] “If we do a digital census well, then all cards can come into one card. The government has not made this plan yet, but I want to put the potential in front of you to show that a successful digital census is your work and for the benefit of the public,” Shah said.[5]


OBJECTIVES OF NPR

The NPR is aimed at preparing a comprehensive identity database for the usual residents in the country.[6] It would also contain demographic as well as biometric information. Such a register is required and might be imperative for the national security of the nation. Since situation with Pakistan and China has been deteriorating every now and then and there is always some or the other national threat it is imperative that the country is careful about in-state infiltrates to reduce risks of anti-human activities and terror activities.

The move for the preparation of the NPR came over a month after President Ram Nath Kovind had unveiled the government's priorities ahead. "My government has decided to implement the process of National Register of Citizens on priority basis in areas affected by infiltration,"[7] Ram Nath Kovind said in his customary address on June 20 after the formation of the 17th Lok Sabha.

Such a register can also be helpful in keeping a check on the current residents of the country. Such a check would help in the development of the country as ministries such as education, health, etc. might take help of such data to develop policies beneficial for the country.

CONCLUSION

The idea for a national register for the population has been surfaced on the paths of the idea of national register of citizens. The NRC is the basic state register for the citizens of the state of Assam while the NPR is aimed at being a register for the usual residents of the country. Such a step, though scrutinized by the Indian population and media due to risks of personal information being misused and it also being seen as violative of the currently propagated right to privacy, is deemed necessary by the current Indian government for the reasons of national security.

“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,” a Home Ministry official said.[8]

The idea of NPR has many benefits attached to it to be attained in the future if such a register is used to its full potential without corruption on the part of the authorities. The population of India must be made to believe that their personal and crucial information would not be misused, and it shall not be a risk to their personal security. It should also be proven to the people that it is not violative of their right to privacy to be fully accepted by them.

[1] “Assam Final NRC list released: 19,06,657 people excluded, 3.11 crore make it to citizenship list”, India Today, 31 August 2019

[2] Prabin Kalita, “Policy change? Dhaka to take back immigrants”, The Economic Times, 30 May 2019

[3] Deeptiman Tiwary, Karishma Mehrotra, “Explained: The National Population Register, and the controversy around it”, The Indian Express, 27 September 2019

[4] Karishma Mehrotra, “Amit Shah floats single multipurpose ID card idea, 2021 Census will be digital”, The Indian Express, 24 September 2019.

[5] Supra, note. 3.

[6] “Govt to prepare National Population Register to lay foundation for pan-India NRC”, The Economic Times, 3 August 2019.

[7] “NRC to be implemented in priority areas affected by infiltration: President”, The Economic Times, 20 June 2019.

[8] Id.


Submitted by,

Shubhangi Gandhi,

Year I, B.A.LL.B. (Hons.),

Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab


(Image used for representational purpose only. Image Courtesy: https://scroll.in/article/932645/can-you-prove-you-are-an-indian-citizen-take-the-nrc-test )


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