However, there is no clarity within MHA on what the Centre would do if states do not cooperate with the NPR exercise.
The Registrar General of India (RGI) has received communication from governments of Kerala and West Bengal to put on hold the exercise of National Population Register (NPR). The two states had earlier announced that they would not participate in the NPR exercise.
Sources in Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the RGI received the communication through its regional Census offices in these states.
"The states have written to their district magistrates saying that the NPR exercise could be detrimental to public order and so it must be put on hold for the moment. That communication was forwarded to our regional Census offices, and we have received it from them," an MHA official said.
However, there is no clarity within MHA on what the Centre would do if states do not cooperate with the NPR exercise. Notably, manpower for conduct of Census, and even NPR, is to be drawn from state governments.
The MHA official said, "We have no reason to believe that states will not cooperate. All states have notified the intent to conduct Census. Kerala and West Bengal have even notified Census officials for the houselisting phase, along with which NPR exercise is to be conducted. The data is going to be beneficial for the states themselves. They participated in the exercise in 2010 and 2015. West Bengal has earlier used NPR data for ration cards in the state."
New questions in first phase
In the “houselisting phase”, which will be coupled with NPR, some new questions are being asked. These include whether a household gets bottled water, whether toilet in the premises is shared or personal, whether a house has LPG connection and also its chief source of energy (to know whether a household gets LPG cylinders refilled), on what device they listen to radio, and whether their TV is connected to Doordarshan’s DTH or private players.
While there has been no attempt by the Centre yet to engage with the states on this issue, an official said, "The government believes engaging with people directly is more important."
There also appears to be no clarity yet whether information sought by RGI during NPR is completely voluntary or not. Under Citizenship Rules, 2003, a household head not providing information or providing incorrect information is liable to be punished with a fine of Rs 1,000. This was also mentioned on the NPR form for the exercise in 2010.
This warning has been dropped in the 2020 NPR form. It does, however, seek an undertaking from the individual that the information provided by him/her is correct to the best of his/her knowledge.
In the new NPR form, the RGI is asking personal details such as Aadhaar number, mobile phone number, driving licence number, voter ID number, mother tongue, and date and place of birth of parents.
During the pre-test phase, the RGI had also asked for PAN (permanent account number), but it has been dropped in the final NPR form, which is yet to be notified.
The official said, "Date and place of birth of parents is not something new - it was asked in previous NPRs as well but it was part of the question on individuals in a household. This has been included as a separate question for such parents who do not live their children. However, no question is final, even though notification of NPR questions is not necessary. Any question can be removed, (and) a new one added, until March 31."
The RGI has earmarked 30 lakh enumerators for the three exercises of houselisting, NPR and Census, which is 4 lakh more than the 2011 Census. It is also encouraging enumerators to record data digitally through mobile app.