Census Data Not For Preparing NRC: Home Ministry
Image courtesy: Reuters | Representation image
The fact that questions are still being raised about what the government can or will do with data collected during the Census, suggests that there are still apprehensions of it being used without consent for other purposes, specifically a database of citizens.
Perhaps this is what prompted Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Dr. Kirodilal Meena to ask “whether information obtained from the 2021 Census will be used for the preparation of any other databases, such as the National Register of Citizens (NRC),” and also “whether this will be disclosed to respondents before obtaining the information for the Census…”
Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai submitted a written response to this saying, “The individual data are not used for the preparation of any other database including National Register of Citizens.” He further clarified, “The individual data collected in Census under the Census Act, 1948 are not made public as per the provisions contained in the Act. Only the aggregated Census data at various administrative levels are released.”
Referring to Covid-19 related delays, Rai said, “The Census scheduled in 2021 and related field activities got postponed until further orders due to the outbreak of COVID19 pandemic.” He also said, “This upcoming Census is to be the first digital Census wherein there is also a provision for self-enumeration. Mobile Apps for collection of data and a Census Portal for management and monitoring of various Census related activities have been developed.”
In fact, even the MHA’s Annual report of 2019-2020 had stated that the NPR will be updated in three ways. Two methods allow you to update your information yourself – using a web portal, or a mobile phone app. The third is by house-to-house enumeration in paper format. It clearly states that no documents or biometrics will be collected during the update process.
The entire response may be read here:
In January this year, SabrangIndia had reported that the first phase of Census accompanied with National Population Register (NPR) exercise that was due to kickstart in April 2020, was postponed once again until September 2022. The first phase of Census includes the Houselisting and Housing Census and this time it was to be accompanied by the updating of the NPR, which had created much controversy and opposition. The reason being that NPR was seen as the first step towards the National Register of Citizens (NRC). A detailed analysis of a combination of Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) along with NPR and NRC may be read here.
The houselisting phase collects data on the house, the amenities in the house, like toilet, electricity, water supply. The second phase is about the members in the household.
Census is the primary source of basic national population data required for administrative purposes and for many aspects of economic and social research and planning. Not only are constituencies demarcated on the basis of the census but national, local, urban and rural income estimates as also crucial aspects of what levels of access to services and amenities our people have can be determined with an honest collation of this data. Meaning this data is important so that governments can formulate policies and welfare schemes tailored to the needs of the population data that is its people need. Census Data remains the most credible source of information on Demography (Population characteristics), Economic Activity, Literacy and Education, Housing & Household Amenities, Urbanisation, Fertility and Mortality, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Language, Religion, Migration, Disability and many other socio-cultural and demographic data.
The NPR contains 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. According to the official website of the Registrar General and the Census Commissioner, “The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive database of usual residents in the country. No document will be collected during this exercise.”
The electronic database of more than 119 crore usual residents of the country has already been created under NPR which was created in 2010 along with House listing and Housing Census 2010. The Government of India has also stated that the NPR Database has been updated during 2015-16 in all States/UTs (except Assam and Meghalaya) to make a comprehensive resident database.
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