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Government clears the air, says NPR response is voluntary

NEW DELHI: Answering certain questions in the National Population Register (NPR), like information on  your “parents’ place of birth”  is not mandatory, senior government officials said on Friday. The important clarification came during a day-long conference the Centre held in the Capital with officials from all states to discuss the modalities for the 2021 Census. NPR is to be carried out in the country during April 1-September 30, along with the first phase of Census 2021. According to sources, some non-BJP-ruled states flagged objections over the new methodology for the NPR exercise.

Rajasthan Chief Secretary D B Gupta said he and representatives of many other states raised objections to a few questions to be asked by enumerators to people during the NPR exercise. “We said certain questions in NPR are impractical, like those related to the birth place of parents. There are many people in the country who even don’t know their own birth place. We wondered what purpose would such questions serve,” Gupta told reporters after the meeting.

“The Centre defended them  saying such questions were asked earlier too, adding this time they had just sought to link an individual’s place of birth with his or her parent’s place of birth. However, answering the question is voluntary,” Gupta quoted them as having said. Rajasthan is ruled by the Congress, which has announced its opposition to NPR. Assemblies of Kerala and Punjab have already adopted resolutions declaring their opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act. And a few state governments, including West Bengal and Kerala, have declared that they will not participate in NPR as it is a prelude to a country-wide National Register of Citizens.

During the meeting, presentations were made on the objectives of the Census, NPR and their benefits. A presentation on the use of a mobile app to collect the data was also made.  In his inaugural address, Union minister Nityanand Rai said data collected in the Census will help the country frame welfare policies for the masses. Officials said the objective of NPR is to create a database of every usual resident in the country.