On 20th January, 2020 Dr Lubna Sarwath, Socialist Party (India), Janab Muhammad Maqbool Ahmad Mateen, National President, United Citizens Forum and Shri Pabbati Srikrishna, Telangana Secretary Mala Mahanadu, met with the Census/NPR Joint Director, Andhra Pradesh and Joint Director, Telangana at Kendriya Sadan.
They asked for copies of the Census form, NPR form and NPR Manual, for the Census-NPR that has been declared to run from 1 April, 2020 onwards. Officials responded that the form is under preparation and hence neither soft nor hard copies are available. The group was asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for any further information. Officials said they could only provide information after confirming with higher authorities.
The NPR is being pushed through along with the 2020 Census, ignoring the reconciling procedure laid down to update the NPR database, merely to extract some information from the citizens of India, which will inconvenience them. The intention behind this decision is clearly malignant. It does not provide the appropriate discretionary powers to local authorities and is without the checks and balances needed to ensure the authenticity of the collected information.
A. It is beyond comprehension that even though the official gazette notification (7 January 2020) has been issued regarding the Census enumeration, the app for it has already been designed, the training is told to be in process, yet the Census form is still ‘under preparation’.
B. Further, it is beyond comprehension that the official gazette notification for the NPR was issued on 31 July 2019, its app has already been designed, its training is told to be in process, yet the NPR form is still ‘under preparation’.
C. Officials could not even answer questions on the differences in the form columns and the information sought between the Census and NPR. It is astonishing that even as citizens are protesting and are highly sceptical about the NPR-NRC process, the government, with only 60 days left to start, instead of allaying the fears is not ready with any answers, and are tight-lipped about what information will be collected. Why the extra columns of date and place of birth of a 76-year-old widowed woman’s parents are important for our country’s wellbeing and development is still unknown; or is it known but cannot be told?
COMPARISON BETWEEN ENUMERATION FOR ELECTORAL VOTER LIST AND ENUMERATION FOR NPR
D. When local electoral officers miss or delete the name of a voter from the electoral list, they are never considered ‘Doubtful Citizens’ and officials easily reinclude the name in the electoral list. But, in the case of NPR even if the citizen is missed out by the enumerator in the first list put out at local Registrar/Collector office, it will be obligatory that the citizen in question make rounds of the office and have themselves enrolled to the satisfaction of the local Registrar, else their names will not be entered in the National Register of Citizens and they will be in held detention centres. This is absolutely not a people-friendly procedure or the way to treat citizens of India.
F. There is no procedure to cross-check the lists enumerated by the lower rung officials. Whereas in the Election Guidelines Manual, each upper rung official is mandated to randomly cross-check the lower rung officials’ work by inspecting 5% to 20% of the electoral list for quality of data, there is no such procedure mentioned to ensure that citizens are not left out. There is no onus of cross-checking information or ensuring authenticity on the officials.
There is a passing reference in the NPR Manual 2020 at 2.2 ‘Roles and Responsibilities of Various Stakeholders’ of the State Coordinator, District Collector, Sub-District Collector/Magistrate, Tehsil Officer, Supervisor and Enumerator, having the responsibility of ‘ensuring correctness and quality of the data collected’ and remaining higher officials are supposed to ‘monitor the data’. The 40-page manual does not contain anything beyond this about how cross-checking of this crucial data — through which a bona fide citizen who votes and pays taxes, with the stroke of a pen could erroneously or deliberately be made a non-citizen — will happen.
MISSING IN THE MANUAL
G. Whereas the Index of the 40-page NPR Manual mentions Annexure VIII and Annexure IX as ‘Blank NPR Schedule’ and ‘Filled in NPR Schedule’, the manual ends at page 37 and does not contain the NPR schedule either blank or filled in.
H. At page 35 and 19 where there is a detail of all festivals of India, both national and faith-based, the absence of Eid-ul-Fitr (Ramadhan) and Eid-ul-Adha (Bakrid) two important Muslim festivals is conspicuous.
I. Whereas there is a penalty if a citizen gives some wrong information there is no penalty for the officials who miss out on enumeration of citizens.
Does the updation of the existing NPR data of 119 crore indian citizens require citizen to citizen enumeration or should the procedure of registration of births and deaths laid out in the Citizenship Rules of 2003 be followed?
J. Most importantly, in the notification on NPR dated 31 July 2019 it is stated that ‘In pursuance of sub-rule (4) of rule 3 of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, the Central Government hereby decides to prepare and update the Population Register and the fieldwork for house to house enumeration throughout the country except for Assam for collection of information relating to all persons who are usually residing within the jurisdiction of Local Registrar shall be undertaken between the 1st day of April 2020 to 30th September 2020.’
The Citizenship Rules 2003 which is cited as the premise for NPR-NRC above, lays down the procedure for ‘Maintenance and Updation’ as follows:
‘11. Maintenance and updating of National Register of Indian Citizens. –
(1) The Registrar General of Citizen Registration shall cause to maintain the National
Register of Indian Citizens in electronic or some other form which shall entail its
continuous updating on the basis of extracts from various Registers specified under the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 (18 of 1969) and the Act.
(2) It shall be the responsibility of the head of each and every family to ensure
that any event of birth or death occurring in the family has been duly entered in, or deleted from, the Local Register of Indian Citizens.
(3) The Chief Registrar of Births and Deaths and all other officials engaged in the
registration of births and deaths shall assist the Registrar General of Citizen
Registration in updating the National Register of Indian Citizens as required under
K. While the census is being carried out after a decade as per the rules, why is the NPR enumeration being pushed through along with the Census when the last NPR was just conducted in 2015? As per the government website, the government has a database of 119 crore Indians. Why is the NPR being re-done and that too on a door-to-door, person-to-person basis at a cost of Rs. 4000 crores, within just five years of the last NPR in 2015 and further, without reconciling data with Births and Deaths, and by surreptitiously pushing it through along with the Census?
What sort of a time-pass is this government indulging in while the economy is being allowed to fail and citizens are losing confidence in the economy, education, and security of the country, and most critically in the ethics of the Parliament and ethics of our government?
Dr Lubna Sarwath, Socialist Party (India); 9963002403
Janab Muhammad Maqbool Ahmad Mateen, National President, United Citizens Forum; 9912079177
Shri Pabbati Srikrishna, Telangana Secretary Mala Mahanadu; 9533411328