NEW DELHI: The Centre is planning to undertake an ambitious effort to create a national population register — a proposal that has surfaced in various forms in the past as well — which will document biometric information and photos of all "usual residents" of India above the age of 15.
While previous governments have also considered such a scheme, with the NDA wanting to restrict this to a citizen's register when it was in power, this time the effort is being tagged to the next census slated to get underway later this year. The decadal census will incorporate information that will be digitalized.
MoS for home Ajay Maken had announced the plan for an NPR in Parliament earlier this month and home minister P Chidambaram has said that he hoped to have a good register by 2011-12. The proposal has been on the cards even earlier in 2008 but is only now being operationalised with the Cabinet expected to approve the initiative at its meeting on Friday.
The home ministry proposal closely mirrors the unique identification number initiative that is also expected to get off the ground this year. It is likely the two exercises will be carried out simultaneously with census machinery being the information collecting agency. With its experience in conducting massive nation-wide surveys, the office of the registrar general and census commissioner is seen to be suited for the task.
As in the case of the UID project, the register of population side-steps the contentious issue of identifying illegal migrants as those from Bangladesh by referring to persons who are usually residents. This also includes large number of people from Nepal working and living in India. As citizenship as a parameter for being in the register has implication for illegals, the government has broadened the criteria.
There is a view that even if it means a certain dilution of the proposal to have a citizen's register, it would be useful to have residents on the record as this would put persons on the map. Even if the citizenship criteria is blurred, it will help trace individuals if they are part of an electronic record.