NRC to help detect illegal immigrants, NPR just a database of residents; done in 2010 also.
Amid widespread protests and political schism over the dual policy initiatives of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) for their perceived potential in combination to exclude sections of usual residents of the country from citizenship and attendant rights, the Union Cabinet on Tuesday approved proposals for conducting the 16th, decennial Census of India (2021) at an estimated cost of `8,754 crore and renewal of the National Population Register (NPR), with an expenditure of Rs 3,941 crore.
While the stated objective of the NPR, being carried out under the aegis of the Registrar General and ex-officio Census Commissioner, India, is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country, including demographic as well as biometric particulars, minister for information and broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said, “No proof will be required during the census as it will be based on self-declaration”.
He added, “since the forms were longer, it used to take a lot of time. An app for this has been developed.”
“No proof, paper, document or bio-metric submission would be necessary as we have full faith on the people,” he said.
When asked whether NPR will be linked to NRC, Javadekar said that was never the government’s intention. Home minister Amit Shah also later reiterated this stance.
The Cabinet also approved merging of the existing eight Group A services of the Indian Railways into a unified Central service called Indian Railway Management Service and reorganisation of the now all-powerful Railway Board into a linear structure on functional lines. Railway minister Piyush Goyal said the move is aimed at ending the culture of departmentalisation in the national carrier and expediting decision-making.
According to the minister, the organisational revamp of the national transporter would aid faster implementation of projects and reduce cost overruns, which is now a regular feature.
The Narendra Modi government has ambitious plans of Rs 50 lakh crore investments over the next 12 years in the railway sector to modernise the infrastructure and provide the highest standards of safety, speed and services to passengers. However, the steadily declining performance of Indian Railways was reflected in its FY18 operating ratio (OR) of 98.44%, which was the worst in the last 10 years, as noted by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in a report tabled in Parliament earlier this month.
In the new structure for Railway Board, there will be a chairperson, four permanent members and some independent directors. The chairperson will be the cadre controlling authority.
According to Tuesday’s Cabinet decision, the NPR would be updated along with the house-listing phase of Census 2021 during April to September 2020 in all the states/Union Territories except Assam, where the NRC process is under way. In the second phase, the enumeration of population will be done from February 9 to February 28, 2021 with reference moment as 00:00 hours of March 1, 2021. For snow-bound areas in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the reference date will be October 1, 2020.
The NPR is a list of “usual residents” of the country. A “usual resident” is defined for the purposes of NPR as a person who has resided in a local area for the past six months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next six months or more. The data for NPR was first collected in 2010 along with the house-listing phase of Census of India 2011; the data was updated in 2015 by conducting door-to-door survey. The digitisation of the updated information has been completed.
The census provides detailed and authentic information on demography, economic activity, literacy and education, housing and household amenities, urbanisation, fertility and mortality, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, language, religion, migration, disability, besides others. The enumerators also collect data related to cultivators and agricultural labourers, their sex, occupational classification of workers in non-households industry, trade, business, profession or service by class of worker and sex. There will be detailed survey on gender and literacy rate, number of towns, slum households and their population.
The CAA provides non-Muslim minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who moved here before 2015 a pathway to Indian citizenship. It is being opposed for its alleged discriminatory character and being allegedly violative of the spirit of the Constitution of India that vows secularism and non-discrimination in the name of caste, creed and religion and gender.
(With agency inputs)