Explained: How NPR Is ‘First Step’ Towards NRC & a Bridge to CAA

Residents will be required to state where their parents were born, a requirement not in the previous NPR.

5 min read
Contrary to the Centre’s claims, the NPR has often been described as “the first step towards the creation of a National Register of Citizens”. 

The Union Cabinet on Tuesday, 24 December, approved funds to the tune of over Rs 3,941.35 crore to update the National Population Register (NPR), officials have said, according to PTI.

Announcing the NPR amid protests over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, to dismiss fears, said it is a “national population register, not a citizen register,” according to ANI.

Later, Union Minister for Home Affairs Amit Shah, in an interview, asserted that NPR has no link to National Register of Citizens (NRC) and will not be used for a future NRC.

“NPR Census has no relation to the NRC,” Shah said in the ANI interview. 

“Currently, there is no proposal to conduct a nation-wide National Register of Citizens (NRC) on the basis of data collected through the National Population Register (NPR),” Javadekar added.

However, the NPR is widely seen as the ‘first step’ or the backdoor for the implementation of the contentious NRC, as it is linked to the Census. What exactly is the NPR and how exactly is it connected to the CAA or the NRC?


What Is NPR?

According to the Registrar General’s website, “The National Population Register (NPR) is a Register of usual residents of the country.”

Who falls within the “usual resident”category?

For the purposes of NPR, a usual resident is someone who has resided in a local area for 6 months or more, or someone who intends to reside in the area for 6 months or more.

It is mandatory for every ‘usual resident’ of India to register in the NPR.

NPR data was collected in 2010 during the Census 2011 exercise and updated in 2015.

Is NPR Linked to NRC?

Both Union Home Minister Amit Shah as well as Union Minister Prakash Javadekar have categorically denied any link between the two registers.

“There is no link between National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR), I am clearly stating this today,” Shah told ANI, in an interview on Tuesday evening.

However, multiple documents from 2014, including answers given in Parliament and the same issued by Press Information Bureau (PIB) appear to contradict the claims made by Shah. Following are the official releases that state NPR as the “first step towards creation of National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC).”

23 July 2014: Former Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, replying to B K Hariprasad in Rajya Sabha said, “The government has now decided to create the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) based on the information collected under the scheme of NPR by verifying the citizenship status of all individuals in the country.”

26 November 2014: Rijiju, once again, reiterated the aforementioned point in Rajya Sabha in response to a question by Dr T N Seema. “The NPR is the first step towards creation of National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) by verifying the citizenship status of every usual residents.”

21 April 2015: A press release by Ministry of Home Affairs iterated that the “logical conclusion” of the NPR is the creation of NRIC. “It has been decided that National Population Register (NPR) should be completed and taken to its logical conclusion, which is the creation of National Register of Indian Citizen (NRIC) and National Identity Cards would be issued to citizens by verification of citizenship status of every usual resident in the NPR. The proposals for the same are under consideration of the Government.”

Former MoS Kiren Rijiju’s reply in the Rajya Sabha on 31 July 2019.
Former MoS Kiren Rijiju’s reply in the Rajya Sabha on 31 July 2019.
(Photo Courtesy: Rajya Sabha)

What Details Will Be Asked for in NPR?

According to the Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India, which comes under Ministry of Home Affairs, the following details are sought:

  • Name of person
  • Relationship to head of household
  • Father’s name
  • Mother’s name
  • Spouse’s name (if married)
  • Sex
  • Date of birth
  • Marital status
  • Place of birth
  • Nationality (as declared)
  • Present address of usual residence
  • Duration of stay at present address
  • Permanent residential address
  • Occupation/Activity
  • Educational qualification

However, a copy of the NPR questionaire accessed by Scroll revealed an additional question about when and where a resident’s parents were born. This question doesn’t find mention in the list provided on the Registrar General’s website.

Are NPR & CAA Connected?

Yes. In fact, NPR is connected to both CAA and NRC separately, and is also designed to work as a bridge between the two (explained later).

NPR is linked to CAA as it seeks to implement the citizenship requirement under the Citizenship Act ie, to prove that one parent is an Indian citizen.

A new requirement, one that wasn’t a part of the previous data collections of the NPR, is Question 13 – which asks for the date and the place of birth of a resident’s parents.

A sample questionnaire of the NPR which seeks answers to where parents of a resident were born. 
A sample questionnaire of the NPR which seeks answers to where parents of a resident were born. 
(Photo: Twitter)

So, How Is NPR a Bridge Between CAA & NRC?

The upcoming NPR exercise will require residents to state the date and the place of birth of their parents. This is a requirement in the current NPR, and one that was not a part of the previous NPR exercises, conducted in 2010 and 2015. “This is of crucial significance and to understand this, let’s look at the Citizenship Act (one that is subject to amendment by the CAA),” said Supreme Court advocate Gautam Bhatia.

Section 3 of Citizenship Act says that those born after 1 July 1987 will have to prove that one of their parents is an Indian citizen. However, those born after 2003 must prove that one parent is an Indian citizen and the other is not an illegal immigrant.

The NPR forms the base for the creation of a future NRC. The NPR will create a list of all the residents of the country, based on which the NRC will seek to identify those who are not residents.

“What I want to emphasise is that the clear overlap between what the citizenship Act prescribes as a requirement of becoming a citizen on one hand and what this new requirement of the NPR prescribes, that overlap is identical,” Bhatia added.

Section 3 of Citizenship Act,1955.
Section 3 of Citizenship Act,1955.

Is NPR Part of 2021 Census?

The Centre recently issued a clarification that the NPR would form the basis for and culminate with the 2021 Census.

However, the Census and the NPR are implemented under different legislations. While the NPR is implemented under Citizenship Act, 1955, the population Census comes under the Census Act, 1948.

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