Unfounded doubts about National Population Register
BY: M Altaf Ansari
“The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database in the country with full identification and other details by registering each and every usual resident in the country. This would help in better targeting the benefits and services under the Government schemes/programmes, improve planning and prevent identity fraud. ”
National Population Registration (NPR) is an important document that was scheduled to be updated along with the House listing phase of Census 2021 during April to September 2020 in all the States/UTs except Assam. The aim was to look into growth of population over the decade, to identify Indian citizen and state of their livelihood, to provide better facilities as Indian government has been running several welfare schemes and programmes and to elevate under-privileged people to a certain status. Addressing the concerns of the citizens, MHA clarified that the Indian citizens do not need to submit any documents for registering themselves in the NPR, information provided by them backed by documentary proof would be sufficient to get themselves registered in the NPR.
NPR is not a recent phenomenon. The data for National Population Register was first collected in 2010 along with the house listing phase of Census of India 2011 under the UPA-II government. This was done as the government has been planning to construct online data base of each and every individual to achieve many targets including minimising the multiplicity of documents and to avoid duplicity while facilitating scholarships, jobs, subsidised grains and gas etc. Apart from these, security of the country will be strengthened after each and every citizen has been identified thereby leaving little space for infiltrators and foreign agents. The current NPR is also expected to be the most authentic and reliable source to trace any person’s involvement in criminal and violent affairs. The Social Security Number and Card of America is an ideal example in this regard. The SSN has made it very easy for America to look after its citizens and respond promptly to any emergency.
Those opposing NPR must remember that it is compulsory for every citizen of the country to register in a National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) as per Section 14A of the Citizenship Act 1955 as amended in 2004. Being a responsible citizen of India, it is the responsibility of all to divulge their relevant details for recording in the NPR registration without any protest and noise as NPR would be beneficial for the citizens in the long run. After the last NPR was announced, protesting voices were heard from the minority community as they were misguided by people with political interest. However, a careful look would reveal that the data collected through NPR would eventually be used for the benefits of the masses. Identity of an Indian citizen is already proved through various documents including Voter ID, Aadhar etc. NPR would only synchronise and compile all the available info. Numerous avenues have been provided to those who despite being an Indian citizen are deprived of the required documents. These avenues can be accessed easily. Only those claiming citizenship under forged documents and sucking government funds for their own benefits need to be worried.
Meanwhile, Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019, passed by the Indian Parliament, has remained contentious and Indian Muslims have been up in arms against the law because they deem it a law that will throw them out of India. Protests against Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019, spread to almost every nook and corner of the country. Some participated in the protest as the CAA allegedly violated the country’s secular identity, while others feared that it will endanger their linguistic and cultural identity. The views, issues and debates about CAA have been widespread, but here is the question I am going to put is, should Muslims having genuine identity proofs worry about CAA or NRC?
CAA and NRC (National Register of Citizens) are connected, and NRC will provide the basis for CAA to apply its provisions and vacate what government says, illegal immigrants. NRC is a house to house exercise enumeration to collect specified particulars relating to each family and individual residing in a local area, including the citizenship status. So, unlike many claims, people will not be asked to submit documents related to their grandparents, like people presenting their identity cards or any other paper for registering their names in the voter list or getting an Aadhaar card. Similar documents are required to be provided for the NRC. Any document related to date and place of birth will suffice as proof of citizenship. However, the decision on what documents will be acceptable is still pending. They are likely to include voter ID card, passport, Aadhaar card, driving licence, insurance paper, birth certificate, school-leaving certificate, documents relating to land or home or other government-issued documents. If a person is illiterate and does not have the relevant documents, the authorities will allow him to bring a witness. Further evidence and community verification will also be allowed.
The fact is that NRC excludes only those Muslims ‘who do not possess documents’. Those Muslims who possess documents have nothing to worry about CAA or NRC, for that matter. However, Muslims being apprehensive about being the next sufferer is misleading and holds no ground. They can not be thrown out of the country or in concentration camps. Some original Muslims who may not possess documents and have migrated from their native place to any other part where community evidence cannot be collected, will be given enough opportunities to prove their point. In a normal country, the government knows who is a citizen and who is not and when it has doubts, it carries out the required checks on an individual. In India, the test involves whole country. Those who possess documents can never be targeted. Even the Indian Prime Minister himself promised that Muslims need not worry; the allegations are misnomers. The terminology and the technicality of CAA combined with NRC clearly specify that only illegal immigrants (those who do not possess the documents) will be thrown either in concentration camps or out of the Indian territory. The genuine document possessing Muslims are safe and must repose their faith in the Indian constitution and government of India.