Census data confidential, guaranteed under law; violation punishable: RGI

The central government defended the steps saying certain responses to be given by people are not mandatory but voluntary.

Amid the ongoing row over the NPR exercise, the government on Tuesday asserted that census data is confidential and guaranteed under the law and those violating it will be punished.

In a series of tweets, the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India (RGI) also said the 2021 would be the first ever census to be conducted with a mixed mode approach - a mobile app (created in-house by RGI office).

"While confidentiality about your data is guaranteed by Census Act, 1948; the same law specifies penalty for BOTH public AND census officials for non-compliance or violation of any provision of the Act," the RGI said.

The National Population Register (NPR) exercise will be carried out along with the house listing phase of the census.

During the census exercise, there will be facility for online self enumeration for the public during population enumeration phase.

"The Indian census is the largest administrative and statistical exercise in the world, with more than 30 lakh functionaries, and at the cost of about 8700 crore rupees," another tweet by RGI said.

The house listing phase of the Census 2021 will be carried out from April 1 to September 30, 2020.

The census will have its reference date as March 1, 2021, but for snow-bound Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand it will be October 1, 2020.

A few state governments have declared that they will not participate in the NPR exercise now alleging it is a prelude to a countrywide National Register of Citizens.

Assemblies of Kerala and Punjab have adopted resolutions announcing their opposition to the exercise.

Last week, at a meeting convened by the Union Home Ministry to discuss the modalities to be adopted during the house listing phase of the Census 2021 and the NPR, a few non-BJP-ruled states raised objections over the new methodology to be adopted in the NPR exercise.

However, the central government defended the steps saying certain responses to be given by people are not mandatory but voluntary.

Rajasthan Chief Secretary D B Gupta had said he and the representatives of a few 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 birthplace of parents. There are many people in the country who don't know their birth place. I don't know what is the purpose of such questions and we have told the meeting to remove such questions," Gupta had said.

The notification for the house listing census and NPR exercise came recently amid furore over the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

The home ministry officials said most of the states have notified provisions related to the NPR.

The NPR is a register of usual residents of the country. It is being prepared at the local (village/sub-town), subdistrict, district, state and national levels under provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

The rules have a provision for fine of up to Rs 1,000 on those violating it.

The data for NPR was last collected in 2010 along with the house listing phase of the Census 2011. Updating of this data was done during 2015 by conducting door to door survey.

While updating the register in 2015, the government had asked details like Aadhaar and their mobile number.

This time, the information related to their driving licence and voter ID card may also be gathered, the officials said, adding that PAN card details will not be collected as part of this exercise.

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

The law compulsorily seeks to register every citizen of India and issue a national identity card.

Assam has been excluded because the National Register of Citizens exercise has already been conducted in the state.

The demographic details of every individual are required for every usual resident: name, relationship to head of household, father's name, mother's name, spouse's name (if married), sex, date of birth, marital status, place of birth, nationality (as declared), present address of usual residence, duration of stay at present address, permanent residential address, occupation, educational qualification.

The Union Cabinet has approved Rs 3,941.35 crore for the NPR exercise.

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