What was the NPR controversy 8 years ago during Congress-led UPA government
What was the NPR controversy 8 years ago during Congress-led UPA government
Photo by ANI

The protests for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) had not even cooled down when the BJP-led central government approved another the National Population Register (NPR).

NPR, which has been in use since the UPA government, is used during the Census to calculate the Indian population and accordingly churn out schemes as and when needed. However, with the recent passing of the amended NPR, many have said alleged that the amended version will be used to further the implementation of NRC.

With the Congress spearheading the NPR criticism today, not long ago, when the Congress-led UPA government had introduced NPR, the country had witnessed severe opposition amid the government itself.

After the November 26, 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, the Congress-led UPA government had introduced the NPR to distribute resident identity cards to actual residents. While the proposal was only for nine coastal states, the then Home Minister P. Chidambaram had extended the programme throughout the nation.

The Home Ministry was to distribute these cards which were supposed to have data-carrying chips containing all information of the citizens, their photographs and biometrics. The then Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chief Nandan Nilekani who was in the process of collecting data for Aadhaar had objected to the proposal.

Both departments had raised concerns about the duplication of data and the use of biometrics. While the MHA asserted that the Registrar General of India (RGI) had to compulsorily gather data for NPR, the UIDAI also claimed that it has the orders to do the same. The matter was produced to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, then HM Chidambaram had requested Singh to clarify on which department will collect the data.

The MHA had expressed security concerns over the possibility of the UIDAI gathering data as it had appointed private firms to do it. However, after holding meetings with both departments and ministers of the government, it was decided that both departments will continue with their data collection simultaneously as the purposes of both differed.

However, while Aadhaar was received a gigantic push from the government, the NRP was left behind to fend for itself. The government approved a budget of Rs 6,649.05 crore for NPR and Rs 8,962.06 crore for the Aadhaar project.

The then Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee also asked the state government to prioritize the Aadhaar project. The then Union minister of state for home RPN Singh explained the settlement between NPR and Aadhaar in Lok Sabha in December 2012.

Singh had replied in written in the Lok Sabha, he had said that the NPR process will be continued as planned, however, if a person who has already enrolled for Aadhaar comes for N{R enrollment, their biometric won’t be sought and instead will be collected from the Aadhaar data.

While the contentious NPR had raised concerns within the then UPA government, in current as well it is being the harbinger of controversy and dissent.

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Free Press Journal