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Home Ministry Says It Hasn't Decided On A Pan-India NRC, Yet

The government is, however, preparing to carry out the NPR exercise across the country from April 1 to September 30, 2020.
 Home Minister Amit Shah
 Home Minister Amit Shah

The government has not taken any decision on preparing a nationwide NRC, it said in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, amid protests against the citizens’ register in the country.

“Till now, the government has not taken any decision to prepare the National Register of Indian Citizens at the national level,” Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said replying a written question.

On December 22, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government has never discussed NRC since coming to power for the first time in 2014. It has been discussed neither in Parliament nor in the Cabinet, he added.

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The Supreme Court-monitored exercise of updating the NRC was carried out only in Assam. The final NRC, a list of Assam’s residents published on August 31, 2019, excluded names of 19 lakh people, creating a huge controversy.

President Ram Nath Kovind did not refer to NRC in his address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the beginning of the Budget Session on Friday.

On June 20, 2019, soon after the formation of the new Lok Sabha, Kovind had said the Modi government decided to implement the process of NRC on “priority basis”.

Kovind had said illegal infiltrators posed a major threat to India’s internal security and this was leading to social imbalance in many parts of the country as well as putting huge pressure on limited livelihood opportunities.

NPR process

The government, however, said it is in discussion with the states having concerns with regard to the preparation of the NPR. The demographic and other particulars of each family and individual are to be updated/collected during the exercise of updation of NPR.

Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said an instruction manual for updation of NPR 2020 for enumerators and supervisors has been prepared and the people will have to provide information for the NPR to the best of their knowledge and belief.

“No document is to be collected during the updation of NPR,” he said replying a written question.

The minister also said that during the NPR updation exercise, no verification will be done to find individuals whose citizenship is doubtful.

The NPR exercise will be carried out across the country along with the house listing phase of the Census 2021 from April 1 to September 30, 2020.

“The NPR updation will be undertaken through house to house enumeration for collection of specified particulars relating to each family and individual. The respondent has to provide the information true to the best of his knowledge and belief. Aadhar Number is collected voluntarily,” he said.

Rai said population register is a register containing details of persons usually residing in a village or rural area or town or ward or demarcated area within a ward in a town or urban area.

“The NPR was first prepared in 2010 and updated in 2015. In pursuance of Sub-rule (4) of Rule 3 of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, framed under the Citizenship Act,1955, central government decided to prepare and update the population register during April to September, 2020 throughout the country except Assam for collection of information relating to all persons usually residing in village or town,” he said.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has appealed to her counterparts in the northeast and non-BJP states to carefully study the NPR form, its questions and criteria before taking a decision on updating it.

Dubbing the exercise as “a dangerous game”, Banerjee said the form, which seeks birth details and residential proof of parents, was nothing but a precursor to the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The Kerala government has announced that it will implement the census exercise but will not cooperate with the NPR.

“As the NPR is a process that leads to the NRC, there is a sense of fear among the people. If the NPR and NRC are implemented in Kerala, it will lead to widespread anarchy. That is the experience of the state where the NRC was implemented,″ said a statement released by the Kerala Chief Minister’s Office.

At a meeting of about 20 opposition parties led by Congress president Sonia Gandhi about a month ago, it was decided that the parties will urge all chief ministers who have decided not to implement the NRC in their states to also consider suspending the NPR enumeration “as this will be a prelude to the NRC”.

The NPR is a register of usual residents of the country. It is being prepared at the local village/sub-town, subdistrict, district, state and national levels under provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955, and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

For the purposes of the NPR, a usual resident is defined as a person who has resided in a local area for past six months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next six months.

Replying to another question, the minister said the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 came into force on January 10, 2020. Persons covered by this act can submit applications for grant of citizenship after appropriate rules are notified by the central government.

“No specific instruction has been issued by the central government regarding release of migrants from detention centres after enacting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019,” he said.

However, in January 2016, the central government had advised the Assam government to examine the cases of all people covered by various court cases filed in Gauhati High Court and to release them from detention centres if they satisfy the conditions and requirements of the two notifications issued by it on September 7, 2015, exempting such people by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder.

In pursuance of a Supreme Court order, the Assam government has issued a notification on July 29, 2019, providing for conditional release of declared foreigners who have completed more than three years in detention centres.

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