Amidst the raging nationwide protests against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh is quietly going ahead with the exercise to update the National Population Register (NPR).
The 45-day long enumeration work will start on April 1 across the state.
However, the state government has made it clear that the people need not submit any documents and that the enumerators would not insist on documents.
A Government Order (GO) issued by Principal Secretary Shashi Bhushan Kumar on Wednesday (January 22) said that the NPR has to be carried out as part of the Census of India 2021.
“In view of a number of apprehensions and doubts being expressed in various quarters with respect to the conduct of NPR exercise, clarifications are being issued for easy dissemination to all the concerned,” the GO said.
The nod for carrying out the NPR exercise, which is widely seen as the first step towards implementation of NRC, contradicts Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s earlier assertion that NRC would not be allowed in the state.
Last month, Jagan had made it clear that AP would not support the Centre’s NRC. “Let me make it very clear. We will not support the NRC and will not allow it in our state,” he had said, while addressing a public meeting in Kadapa on December 23.
The NPR, a register of residents in the country containing demographic and biometric details, forms the legal framework for NRC which is being widely condemned as discriminatory and divisive.
Incidentally, the ruling YSR Congress Party had supported the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) and voted in its favour in both Houses of the Parliament.
However, following public pressure, the Chief Minister made a public statement opposing the NRC while remaining silent on the CAA. On the other hand, state deputy chief minister Amzath Basha has been saying on record that his party would not support any move that was “detrimental” to the interests of the Muslim community.
The opposition Telugu Desam Party, headed by N Chandrababu Naidu, had also supported the legislation. Of late, the regional party has been warming up to the BJP.
No need for documents
“People are not required to submit any document to the enumerators during the NPR exercise. Enumerators are just required to record whatever answers are given by the people and not to press for any further answers to any query if they do not intend to give and also not to ask for any document,” the GO said.
It was further assured that all officials involved in the NPR exercise, including enumerators, were being “trained to the effect that there is no requirement of submission of any document by the people.”
The order also asked the District Collectors to ensure that the clarifications were issued during the training classes for Census functionaries.
Andhra’s decision to go ahead with the NPR is widely seen as part of the political compulsion of the Jagan Mohan Reddy government to keep the central BJP leadership in good humour. Jagan is facing a CBI case pertaining to the alleged illegal assets.
Several non-BJP governments have declared that they would not implement CAA and NRC in their states. After West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee declared that NPR would not be implemented in the state, Kerala too followed suit.
The Kerala cabinet recently decided to inform the Centre that it would not be updating the NPR, as there were concerns that the data collected for NPR would be used to implement NRC in India.
The cabinet had also decided to inform the Registrar General and Census Commissioner that the state would stay away from updating and renewing the NPR. However, the government has made it clear that it will cooperate to carry out the work related to the Census.
“The state will provide all cooperation in the conduct of Census operations. Any attempt to enforce NPR will only jeopardise the 2021 Census,” Finance Minister Dr Thomas Issac had tweeted.
Kerala cabinet decides to inform Census Registrar General that NPR cannot be implemented in the state. State would provide all cooperation in the conduct of Census operations. Any attempt to enforce NPR will only jeopardise the 2021 Census. #CAA_NRC_Protests
— Thomas Isaac (@drthomasisaac) January 20, 2020
“A sense of fear has been generated among the people. It is the government’s duty to help the people come out of their apprehensions and fear, and also to maintain law and order in the state. If NPR and NRC is implemented, it will give rise to an insecurity among people. That is why the state government took this decision,” the Cabinet said in an official release.
Experts point out that it would be extremely difficult to go ahead with the work related to NPR and NRC without the co-operation of the state governments.