Thursday witnessed a massive face-off between Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Congress MP Kapil Sibal on the floor of the Rajya Sabha over the National Population Register. Sibal alleged that people would be marked as ‘doubtful’ over their failure to produce pertinent information during the NPR updation exercise. Moreover, he hinted that the citizenship of poor people could be adversely impacted.
Kapil Sibal remarked, “The law says that when NPR will take place, 10 more questions will be asked. The enumerator will ask those questions, put a D- Doubtful. Then the inquiry will be started and this is not about Muslims, but about poor people.”
Responding to Sibal, Shah stressed that no document needed to be produced during the NPR exercise. Furthermore, he clarified that giving information to the enumerator was optional. Additionally, the Union Home Minister made it clear that no individual would be marked as ‘doubtful’.
“The honourable member said that documents will be asked during the NPR exercise. I have clarified this via a press release that no document will be asked during NPR. Neither was it asked during the first NPR nor will be it asked this time around. Second, I have clarified via the press release that you are free to give any amount of information you want to. It is completely optional,” Amit Shah retorted.
He added, “No one will be marked as ‘D’. No one should fear the NPR. Contrary to what you say, a person who cannot provide information will not be marked as ‘D’."
First prepared in 2010 and updated in 2015, the NPR is a register of usual residents of the country being prepared at the local (village/sub-town), sub-district, district, state and national level under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR. Under the NPR, a usual resident is defined 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.
Addressing a press conference in December 2019, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar declared that the Cabinet had approved the updation of NPR along with the house-listing phase of Census 2021 from April to September 2020. The Centre sanctioned over Rs 8,500 crore for this purpose. Stressing that NPR had nothing to do with the National Register of Citizens, he recalled that the Congress-led UPA government too had executed the NPR process in 2010.