FACT CHECK: Chidambaram linked NPR to NRC during UPA 2?

In a series of tweets, former Union Home Minister P Chidambaram dared the Narendra Modi-led NDA government to ‘unconditionally state’ that they support the form and design of the National Population Register (NPR) undertaken in 2010 and that they have “no intention of linking it to the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC).”

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>The BJP-led government has a larger and more sinister agenda and that is why the NPR approved by them yesterday is very dangerous and different in terms of the TEXT as well as the CONTEXT of NPR 2010.</p>&mdash; P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) <a href=”https://twitter.com/PChidambaram_IN/status/1210061544970543104?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>December 26, 2019</a></blockquote>

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Chidambaram’s tweet storm comes after an eight-second-long video clip of Chidambaram, from 2010, when he was the home minister of the country, saying, “The NPR process is for the purpose of issuing the resident card which eventually will lead to a citizenship card later,” is being shared on social media platforms and WhatsApp widely.

Were the National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) always linked?

The NPR is prepared at the local (village/sub-town), sub-district, district, state and national level under the provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

The UPA government, in 2010, limited the implementation of the 2003 rules to prepare an NPR and never followed it up with an NRIC (National Register of Indian Citizens; called National Register of Citizens when implemented in Assam). The framing of NRIC rules in 2005 were seen to signal the intent to prepare a register of citizens but the process was not carried out, a TOI report said.

The ‘FAQ for NPR’ page  on the Census 2011 website, under question number five, clearly states that NPR is the first step towards the preparation of NRIC. The answer to the question, “Is it necessary to register for the NPR” is given as, “It is compulsory for every citizen of the country to register in a National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) as per Section 14A of the Citizenship Act 1955 as amended in 2004.

The NPR is the first step towards preparation of the NRIC.

Out of the universal data set of residents, the subset of citizens would be derived after due verification of the citizenship status. Therefore it is compulsory for all usual residents to register under the NPR.”

Hence, whether or not the then UPA government carried out the process of preparing a register of citizens, the intent was clear, and NPR and NRIC were linked to each other. This is possibly why Chidambaram, in the video, referred to NPR as a process to issue resident cards which will eventually lead to citizenship cards.

A report  published on ‘MoneyLife’ online magazine in April, 2o14, said that in a reply given by the Ministry of Home Affairs in May, 2013 (when UPA 2 was in power), when information was sought about legal provisions and rules allowing collection of biometric data of citizens, the MHA said, “The Citizenship Act, 1955 empowers the Government to prescribe the procedures to be followed in compulsory registration of the citizens of India.

As per this provision, the Government has decided to create National Population Register –a Register of usual Residents as the first step towards the creation of the National Register of Indian Citizens.

Section 18 of the said Act empowers Central Government to make Rules to carry out the purposes of the Act and to issue guidelines to the State Governments. Under this provision, the Government has issued Guidelines to the States laying down the process to be followed for creating the NPR. The process includes collection of data by house-to-house enumeration, collection of biometrics (10 fingerprint, 2 Iris prints and photograph); de-duplication of the data by UIDAI; publication and invitation of claims and objections; vetting by Gram Sabha/ Ward Committees; vetting by local officials and police and then finalizing the NPR database.”

This again makes it clear that the UPA government considered NPR as the first step towards the creation of the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC).

Originally published at Times of India