National Population Register (NPR): Need, Advantages & Disadvantages

The Indian Government had decided to prepare a National Population Register (NPR) by September 2020 to lay a foundation for rolling out citizens’ register across the country. Once the NPR is completed and published, it will become the basis for the National Register of Indian Citizens, a pan-India version of Assam’s National Register of Citizens. The NPR is to be implemented on a priority basis in areas affected by infiltration. Though this move is a necessary step to ensure the security of the nation and also for the efficient implementation of the welfare schemes, there are still concerns over the privacy, legality and government’s capacity to undertake this mammoth task ahead.

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What is the National Population Register?

  • National Population Register is a register that records the details about the “usual” residents of the country.
  • The usual residents can be defined as those who have resided in a local area for the past six months or more or those who intend to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.
  • According to Section 14A of the Citizenship Act 1955, as amended in 2004, it is compulsory for every Indian citizen to register in the National Register of the Indian Citizens (NRIC).
  • NPR is the first step towards the preparation of the NRIC.
  • The database under the National Population Register will be maintained by the Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner of India that comes under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The NPR is prepared by the local village or sub-town, sub-district, at the state and national level as per provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  • It will be made mandatory for the usual residents of India to register in the NPR.
  • The database would contain the demographic and biographic details of the usual citizens.
  • The data for the NPR was collected in 2010 along with the house listing phase of the Census of India 2011.
  • The up-gradation of this data was done in 2015 by conducting a door-to-door survey and has been fully digitized.
  • Now it has been decided to further update the NPR along with the house listing phase of Census 2021 from April to September 2020 in all States and UTs except Assam.

How is it done?

  • There are several major activities that are being undertaken by the government under the NPR Project.
  • These include house listing by enumerator, scanning of NPR schedules, data digitization, biometric enrolment and consolidation, Local Register of the Usual Residents (LRUR) correction and validation, application by UIDAI and issuance of Aadhaar number, consolidation of cleansed data at Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India (ORGI).
  • There is also the proposal to issue Resident Identity Cards to all usual residents in the NPR of 18 years of age or above.
  • This proposed ID would be a smart card and would bear the Aadhaar number.
  • Several government agencies are working towards the creating of the NPR.
  • These agencies include Registrar General of India, Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY), Department of Electronics and Accreditation of Computer Classes (DOEACC), CSC e-Governance Services, etc.
  • There are 15 different categories of demographic data ranging from name and birthplace to the education and occupation of the resident.
  • The biometric data of the NPR depend on Aadhaar. Thus, it seeks Aadhaar details of the residents.

Connection of NPR with Aadhaar:

  • The data collected under NPR will be sent to the Unique Identification Authority of India for de-duplication and the issue of Aadhar number.
  • Thus, the register will consist of the following data:
  1. Demographic data
  2. Biometric data
  3. Aadhaar number
  • An individual who has already enrolled with UIDAI still has to register under NPR.
  • Certain processes like the collection of data at the doorstep of the individual by authorized persons, collection of biometrics-based on specific procedures, authentication through a social audit, verification by authority, etc. are mandatory.

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What is the difference between NPR and UID?

  • Mandatory or not: It is compulsory for all the Indian residents to register under the National Population register. Whereas, the registration under the UIDAI is a voluntary activity.
  • Authentication or identification: The Unique Identification Number will serve as an authentication during transactions, while NPR will specify the resident status and citizenship of the individual.
  • Door-to-door data collection vs. central enrolment: The individuals can go to an enrolment centre obtain UID. NPR involves the door-to-door collection of data by authorized individuals. The individuals still have to go to centres for enrolling in their biometrics under the NPR scheme.

Why do we need NPR?

  • The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country.
  • The purpose of the identity database is to ensure:
  1. Better utilization and implementation of the benefits and services under government schemes.
  2. Improvement and planning of the security of the nation.

What are the advantages of NPR?

  • The National Population Register is a comprehensive database that enables the collection of full identification and other details of each and every usual resident in the country.
  • The idea is to enable better benefits and services to the needy and the prevention of fraudulent activities.
  • NPR has the potential to club all other forms of identifications such as Aadhaar, Permanent Account Number (PAN), driving licence and electoral photo identity cards under a single platform.
  • The NPR may prove to be a game-changer in the country as the digital census has many benefits.
  • For example, if the child takes birth and attains age 18, then she/he would be able to vote automatically without applying for a voter identification card.
  • It lays the foundation for the NRIC.
  • Just like how the Census 2011 data was used for the implementation of welfare schemes like Ujjwala Yojana, NPR will be used to ensure efficient implementation of the welfare schemes with less possibility for error.
  • The digital NPR would also provide the solution to various problems in the country from the effective maintenance of law and order to an efficient implementation of welfare schemes and maintenance of food and nutritional security.

What are the concerns regarding the NPR?

  • Biometrics: There is a concern over the legality, effectiveness, and accuracy of the biometrics.
  • Privacy: The data collected and stored under the NRC may be misused by either government or the private players as there aren’t any adequate privacy laws within India. Even as the debate over Aadhaar and privacy continues, NPR intends to collect far more in-depth personal information of the residents of India. The inclusion of Aadhaar data into the NPR has led to the rise in the question about limitations of privacy laws of the country. Furthermore, several past occasions have proven that Aadhaar can compromise the personal information of Indian citizens.
  • National Security: All the personal information of the usual residents is stored under a single database. This can be exploited by international players.
  • NRC problem: This comes at a time when the NRC in Assam has excluded about 19 lakhs people. There is a concern over the repetition of this error across India as the government is insisting on the implantation of NRC across the nation. It has also raised the anxiety around the idea of citizenship in the country.
  • While registering with the NPR is mandatory, furnishing of additional data such as PAN, Aadhaar, driving licence and voter ID is voluntary. Making it mandatory will invite unnecessary litigation.
  •  There are also doubts over the government’s capability to store and safeguard the collected data under the NPR.
  • There are also concerns over the sufficiency of the enumerators’ capacity and training.

Conclusion

The use of a digital National Population Register is a good idea to ensure the efficient implantation of the welfare schemes and may prove to be a necessity while dealing with the existing law and order situation within the country. However, the government must take necessary steps to ensure the safety and privacy of the data within NPR so that the citizens are not faced with negative repercussions.

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