Govt Readies Plan to Start Field Trials for Census-NPR

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Massive protests were held against CAA, NRC and NPR throughout India.

‘Withdraw NPR, amend CAA and only carry out Census,’ Owaisi tells government as calls grow to reject the plan

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI – The Central government is planning to conduct field trials for the first phase of the Census and the National Population Register (NPR) using a mobile application in all states and union territories, reports The Hindu.

This came months after the Registrar General of India had said that the questionnaires for the NPR were being finalised even after massive protests were held across the country against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizenship (NRC). NPR is the first step towards the NRC.

Reacting to the report of NPR field trial, All India Muslim Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeeen (AIMMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi warned of fresh agitation.

“NPR is first step towards NRC. Along with CAA, NPR-NRC will burden undocumented citizens, especially poor, women, Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis & linguistic minorities. This ‘field trial’ means we’ll have to restart our andolan. Withdraw NPR, amend CAA & ONLY carry out Census,” tweeted Owaisi.

According to a government official, the trial will be conducted through the App in one block of every district, which is expected to cover 50 or 60 households. The App will have questionnaires related to house listing, house census and the NPR.

“The dates for conducting the Census exercise have not been finalized yet. But the enumerators will have to be trained in using the app. Many enumerators are young schoolteachers who are expected to use the app instead of the paper schedule [form]. There will be incentives for the electronic form,” the official was quoted by The Hindu.

However, the questions for the NPR have not been made public yet, but the pre-test conducted in 2019 included some additional questions such as the date and place of birth of father and mother, last place of residence and mother tongue, Aadhaar (optional), voter ID card, mobile phone and driving licence numbers. Opposition parties and many states have already passed resolutions against the NPR-NRC challenging additional questions in the NPR.

The NPR along with the Census was scheduled to be conducted in April last year but it was postponed indefinitely due to the outbreak of Covid-19. After indefinite postponement of the NPR, many believed that the government had backed down in its plan to conduct the NRC exercise across India because of massive opposition to it. But the reports suggest that it is still part of the Narendra Modi government’s plan.

Massive protests had broken out across the country after the parliament passed the discriminatory citizenship law (CAA) in December 2019. Home Minister Amit Shah had explained the chronology of his government’s plan of passing CAA in the parliament and then carrying out the NRC exercise across the country. The CAA is meant to grant citizenship to the undocumented people from non-Muslim communities of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This stoked fear among Muslims that if they fail to prove their citizenship in the NRC exercise, they will not be given citizenship through the CAA unlike others. In response to this fear, the government and ruling Bharatiya Janata Party started saying that the CAA has nothing to do with the NRC. This was in contradiction to Shah’s chronology. They were also saying that the government had no plan of conducting the NRC at that time.

As the government is planning to start a field trial of the NPR along with the Census, it has raised eyebrows. Ayesha Renna, one of the Jamia students who led anti-CAA protests, called for rejecting NPR.

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