By : Veena N. Madhavan : Recently, many of us must have read in newspapers or magazines about National Population Register (NPR). But what is NPR? What is its purpose? And above all how is it going to benefit the common man?
To know about National Population Register, it becomes essential to know something about Census. The first census in India was held in 1872. Since 1881, population censuses have been held every ten years without any interruption. Census is an administrative exercise carried out by the Government of India. It involves the collection of information about the entire population with regard to many factors like demography, socio-cultural and economic characteristics.
The 2011 Census of India will be the 15th census and seventh after Independence. A milestone in the 2011 Census is the preparation of the NPR. The census will be carried out in two phases. The first phase spans from April to September 2010 with houselisting, house census and collection of data on NPR. This phase also involves the canvassing of NPR schedule which will be digitized in two languages – English and the official language of every State/Union Territory. The first phase will commence on April 1, 2010 in the states of West Bengal, Assam, Goa and Meghalaya and the Union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The second phase includes the population enumeration stage.
The creation of NPR of usual residents of the country is an ambitious project. It involves the collection of specific information on each person residing in the country. It would cover an estimated population of 1.2 billion and the total cost of the scheme is Rs.3539.24 crores. This is for the first time that NPR is being prepared. The database will be built by the Registrar General, India. At this juncture, it becomes important to stress that census and NPR are different, even though the basic idea behind both the exercises is collection of information.
Census is the biggest source of data on demography, literacy and education, housing and household amenities, economic activity, urbanization, fertility, mortality, language, religion and migration. It serves as primary data for planning and the implementation of policies of the Central and State Governments. Also, it is utilized for the purpose of reservation of constituencies for Parliamentary, Assembly and local body elections.
NPR on the other hand, involves the creation of a comprehensive identity database for the country. This would facilitate planning, better targeting of government schemes/programmes and also strengthen the security of the country. Another aspect that differentiates NPR from census is that it is a continuous process. In census, the duty of concerned officers is for a limited period and their services are dispensed with after the work is over, while in the case of the NPR, the role of concerned officers and that of subordinate officers like the Tehsildar and Village Officers is of continuing nature and permanent.
NPR will include the items of information such as the name of the person, father’s name, mother’s name, spouse’s name, sex, date of birth, place of birth, current marital status, education, nationality as declared, occupation, present address of usual resident and permanent residential address. The database will also contain photograph and finger biometry of persons above the age of 15 years. The draft Local Register of Usual Residents (LRUR) would be displayed in the villages in rural areas and wards in urban areas for inviting objections like spellings in names, address, date of birth etc. and also regarding residency status of any person enumerated. The draft LRUR will also be placed before the Gram Sabha or local bodies for authentication of usual residents.
Once the database is finalised, the next task would be assigning every individual a Unique Identification Number (UID) by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). Later this UID number will be added to the NPR database. It is proposed to issue identity card, which will be a smart card with UID number printed on it and include basic details like name, mother’s/father’s name, sex, date and place of birth, photograph. Complete details will be stored in the chip.
The implementation of NPR in the entire country would be based on the light of the experience gained from the pilot project, the coastal NPR project. The pilot project was carried out in selected border areas of the country. The coastal NPR project is being carried out in more than 3300 villages in 9 states and 4 Union territories. The decision to implement coastal NPR project was taken by keeping in view the enhancement of coastal security.
How NPR would benefit people?
In India, there are several databases like election card, driving license, passports, PAN cards, but all these have limited reach. There is no standard database covering the entire population. NPR would provide a standard identity database and facilitate the allotment of Unique Identification (UID) Number to each individual, something like a permanent identifier – right from birth to death of the individual.
The significance of NPR lies in the fact that there is an increasing need for a credible identification system for the country as a whole. It becomes all the more important because of various factors such as the need to reach out to people in every nook and corner of the country, to keep a check on illegal migration and also with regard to the issue of internal security.
The coming in of a unique identification number would benefit the common man in many ways. It will strike off the need for producing multiple documentary proofs of identity by an individual for availing government or private services like opening of a bank account. It will help in the easy verification of an individual. The creation of an identity database would help enhance the targeting of various beneficiary oriented schemes of the Government and non governmental agencies. NPR would also serve the requirement of sprucing up tax collection.
India has already set the process rolling to create the largest database in the world, with the promise of a unique biometric card to an estimated population of 1.2 billion. Thus the path towards providing a unique identity has been set out. The enormity of the exercise is such that it requires the undaunted support and cooperation of people in making the project a success that would be beneficial to every resident in the country.