At meeting on NPR, Opposition states object to question on place and birth of parents

Deeptiman Tiwary
At meeting on NPR, Opposition states object to question on place and birth of parents

Chief Secys, Census officers of states minus Bengal came for meeting. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

Opposition-ruled states raised objections to new questions introduced in the 2020 National Population Register (NPR) form at a meeting Friday with Union Home Secretary A K Bhalla and officials of the Registrar General of India (RGI).

Sources said the states sought clarification in particular on Question No. 13 (II) of the NPR form which seeks information on the date and place of birth of an individual’s parents.

After the meeting, Rajasthan Chief Secretary D B Gupta said: “We told RGI that asking date and place of birth of parents was impractical as people in this country do not remember their own date of birth. The RGI said this question had been asked earlier and remains voluntary.”

RGI officials briefed the meeting of Chief Secretaries and Census officials of all states and Union Territories — called by the Ministry of Home affairs, it was held at the Ambedkar International Centre in New Delhi — on the NPR process and the training exercise for its rollout April 1.

While West Bengal, which along with Kerala had declared it would not cooperate in the NPR process, stayed away from the meeting, representatives from all states, including Kerala, participated.

The conference was inaugurated by Minister of State (Home) Nityanand Rai who, according to an official statement, “laid emphasis on the need of conducting Census 2021 and the role of the states in doing the same”. He also said data collected in the Census would help frame policies for the welfare of the people.

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“Odisha first raised this point (about details of the date and place of birth of parents) at the meeting. Some other states, ruled by Opposition parties, too had reservations on this question. However, a cogent explanation was given and they appeared to be satisfied,” an official of the MHA said.

State representatives were told that this question was asked in the 2010 and 2015 NPR exercises as well as part of seeking details of a household, but it was not a separate question then. “When some still expressed reservations, we told them that information is voluntary and if the respondent does not want to give such information, he/she can refuse to give it,” the official said.

A senior official from an Opposition-ruled state said the meeting was fruitful as a familiarisation exercise for the challenges that would be faced during the NPR process and houselisting Census, but a call on either had not yet been taken in his state. “Whether to conduct NPR is a political call. If the leadership decides non-cooperation, it will happen through the public. We will not do it officially,” the official said.

Under the law, states have no power to stop the Census or NPR exercise. In fact, not participating in the Census and NPR is a punishable offence. However, it is the states which will provide manpower for enumeration, mainly in the form of primary school teachers. The manpower fixed for houselisting, NPR and Census by the RGI this time is close to 30 lakh personnel.

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At the meeting, the Home Ministry also told states to involve IAS probationers of the 2018 and 2019 batches in the enumeration process at the district level and to give them proper training for it. For NPR, the 2019 batch will be trained at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie. The 2018 batch will be trained at the Directorate of Census Operations in state capitals.

Sources said the Friday meeting was divided into two parts — the first session was to familiarise state representatives with the houselisting and NPR process and explaining the need for proper training while the second session was used to discuss issues associated with enumeration including budget, level of training, requirement of infrastructure and clearing of doubts.

“We basically communicated to the states what was our expectation from them and what all we were providing. The states had their own suggestions and questions which were all answered. Other matters discussed were largely administrative and process-oriented,” an official of the MHA said.

RGI officials also made a presentation at the meeting on various facets of logistics and training for the NPR process. It said 98 national trainers had trained 1,880 master trainers. The master trainers are to train 43,500 field trainers in states who in turn will train 29,92,000 enumerators and supervisors.