Amid CAA protest, West Bengal stays work on National Population Register

Mamata Banerjee leads a rally of thousands of partymen, vowing not to allow NRC and Citizenship Act in West Bengal in Kolkata. Photo: PTI

The West Bengal government on Monday stayed all activities relating to the preparation and update of the National Population Register (NPR) in the state, amid furore over a contentious amendment made to the citizenship law.

An order issued by the Home and Hill Affair Department Census Cell to commissioners of Kolkata and Howrah municipal corporations and all district magistrates said that all activities regarding the preparation and update of NPR are stayed.

"No activity regarding NPR may be taken up without prior clearance from the government of West Bengal. The order is issued in the interest of public order," it said.

The decision comes amid violent protests in parts of Bengal over the amended Citizenship Act and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee making it clear the law and the proposed NRC will not be implemented in the state.

It drew sharp reactions from the BJP.

"The NPR was done for the purpose of census, under the National Census Act. What the state government is doing is unconstitutional. It is because the TMC government is now nervous as census might bring out the truth about changing demography in the state and is only worried about her minority votebank," BJP state vice-president Jay Prakash Majumdar said.

The TMC is destroying Bengal and future generations will suffer because of this, he said.

The Trinamool Congress leadership, however, said the state government decision is temporary in the wake of protests against the new citizenship law across the country.

"It is because the Citizenship Act has generated a panic among citizens. So it has been decided any work regarding NPR might further aggravate the situation," a senior TMC leader said.

The CPI(M) leadership welcomed the stay on NPR but said it has exposed the TMC government's double standard on NRC.

"TMC has been opposing NRC but they had started the work for NPR, which is a precursor to pan-India NRC. Earlier the state government had denied starting the NPR process in the state. But today that lie stands exposed," senior CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said.

The central government has decided to prepare NPR by Sep 2020 to lay the foundation for rolling out a citizens' register across the country.

The NPR will be a list of usual residents of the country. Once the NPR is completed and published, it is expected to be the basis for preparing the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC), a pan-India version of Assam's National Register of Citizens, according to an official.

For the purpose of NPR, a usual resident is defined as a person who has resided in a local area for six months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next six months or more.

The NPR exercise will be conducted in conjunction with the house-listing phase, the first phase for Census 2021. The NPR exercise is conducted at the local, sub-district, district, state and national levels.

The RGI has already begun a pilot project in over 1,200 villages and 40 towns and cities through 5,218 enumeration blocks, where it is collecting various data from people. The final enumeration will begin in April 2020 and end in September 2020.

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel