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Centre may revive ambitious National Register of Indian Citizens project across country as part of drive to identify illegal immigrants

New Delhi: The Union government's fight against illegal immigrants will soon get a national canvas as it has decided to give a fresh impetus to the department of the National Population Register (NPR) under the Registrar General of India. The division had turned almost non-functional after Aadhaar gained supremacy in the NDA government's agenda in late 2014. According to top sources in the government, data for NPR was collected in 2010 along with the house-listing phase of the Census. However, the main task assigned to the department for the creation of the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) had been shelved by the government.

“If a final go-ahead is given by the government, an exercise will be carried out for the creation of two databases. The NPR's main task is to generate the NRIC. The rest will automatically become National Register of Residents or NRR. It is called a filtering process, and involves field verification as well as scrutiny of documents,” sources said.

 Centre may revive ambitious National Register of Indian Citizens project across country as part of drive to identify illegal immigrants

An NRC Seva Kendra in Guwahati. File image. PTI

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam and the subsequent releasing of the data appears to have provided a much-needed push for the NRIC project. Since the idea of the NRIC was first mooted during NDA-I, the deliberation within the government to revive the crucial department to identify and provide identity cards to Indian citizens is being seen as a last-ditch effort to contain the influx of illegal immigrants. Over 40 lakh people were left out of the Assam NRC in July, and after claims and settlement, a final list will be released.

“During Lal Krishna Advani’s tenure as home minister, the NPR division was working in full swing. The idea was to issue Multi-Purpose National Identity Cards (MPNIC) to citizens. A pilot project at 13 places was also carried out successfully, after which the project was to be launched at the national level. But after the UPA came to power, the proposal was abandoned. Subsequently, the UPA decided to go ahead with Aadhaar, and the NRIC was given a quiet burial. When NDA came to power, there were talks about reviving it, but somehow, that didn’t happen,” informed government sources said.

It is learnt that the pilot project for the NRIC was conducted at Kathua in Jammu, Narela in Delhi, Maharajganj in Uttar Pradesh, Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand and Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu in 2003.

“There was a change of the government when a completion report along with comments from the NPR division was submitted. However, no further direction from the top was received by the department,” sources said.

Although the department continued functioning in a condensed form and Aadhaar was given the task of capturing the biometric data, an arrangement was made for sharing records with each other. Following the Assam NRC, BJP leaders expressed the need for a nationwide exercise to weed out illegal immigrants. The leadership of the ruling party has made it clear that if it returns to power, the proposal to carry out the NRIC will be implemented.

In July 2015, a cabinet note was prepared for the NRIC, but the proposal was subsequently shelved. The proposal had highlighted that data entry of more than 119 crore persons was already completed and seeding with Aadhaar for biometric data was in process.

MPNIC Proposal First Moved In 2000

The Group of Ministers' (GoM) report after the Kargil war had suggested that the government must identify citizens and non-citizens, and both should be given different identity cards.

"Illegal migration has assumed serious proportions. There should be compulsory registration of citizens and non-citizens living in India. This will facilitate preparation of a national register of citizens. All citizens should be given a Multi-Purpose National Identity Card (MPNIC) and non-citizens should be issued identity cards of a different colour and design. This should be introduced initially in the border districts, or maybe in a 20-kilometre border belt and extended to the hinterland progressively," the GoM report had said.

The process for the NRIC has been envisaged in the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 which said, “For the purposes of preparation and inclusion in the Local Register of Indian Citizens, the particulars collected of every family and individual in the Population Register shall be verified and scrutinised by the Local Registrar, who may be assisted by one or more persons as specified by the Registrar General of Citizen Registration. During the verification process, particulars of such individuals, whose citizenship is doubtful, shall be entered by the Local Registrar with appropriate remark in the Population Register for further inquiry and in case of doubtful Citizenship, the individual or the family shall be informed in a specified proforma immediately after the verification process is over.”

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Updated Date: Jan 11, 2019 20:53:53 IST