New Delhi: In a bid to allay fears, union home minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah said that the process of National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) have no connection.
Speaking in an interview, Shah said that the criticism of opposition parties over linking NRC with the NPR was driven by political motives as a similar exercise had been carried out by previous governments as well. His comments come at a time when there have been pan-India protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
Shah’s comments came hours after the union cabinet approved funding for the Census and the National Population Register (NPR), to be conducted simultaneously next year. The Cabinet set aside ₹8,754.23 crore for the 2021 Census—the world’s largest head-count—and ₹3,941.35 crore for the NPR, which was started in 2010 and last updated in 2015.
“There is a lot of difference between the two. There is no link between NRC and NPR, I am clearly stating this today. They cannot be used in place for each other. The laws are different. NPR was not started by the BJP government. It was started in 2004 by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. NPR data cannot be used for the NRC,” Shah said.
He said that in NPR there will be no support documents that will be required. He added that there are one or two new questions like the area of the house, animals in the house which have been added in the questionnaire. He added that even if someone’s name is left out of the NPR, their citizenship stays.
“These are new and they will base the policy decisions of the government. Those who are speaking up against this are against minorities. Through NPR we get to know migration trends which can base decisions of the government,” Shah said.
In September this year, home minister Amit Shah said the government was set to spend ₹12,000 crore on the 2021 Census as well as for the preparation of the National Population Register (NPR), adding it would eliminate the need for multiple identifications.
The governments of West Bengal and Kerala last week stayed all activities connected to the updation of the NPR. “I urge the chief ministers of both the states that they re-think their stance on this because it will help in building policies for their states. We issued a notification on 21/7/2019 and almost all states have notified it. I don’t want the poor in West Bengal and Kerala to be deprived of the benefit that the NPR can bring to them. This process is not happening today. There is a law to hold this process every ten years,” Shah said.
He said the CAA also does not have a provision to take away the citizenship of any individual. It is an Act to give citizenship instead. People want to create a fear of NPR because some people have understood CAA. People are being misled.
Two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that there will be no NRC across the country, Shah in line with the PM said, “There is no need to debate this (pan-India NRC) as there is no discussion on it right now, PM Modi was right, there is no discussion on it yet either in the Cabinet or Parliament. The party manifesto is in its own place and when it does happen, it cannot be done in a hidden way. Everyone will know when it happens.”
Commenting on the timing of the cabinet decision, Shah said that the entire NPR process takes approximately 1.5 years and a similar timeline had been followed in previous years.