The Chief Minister's letter further said that all officers who spread confusion regarding NPR in the future would face strict action.

NPR stands stalled in Kerala CM clarifies after confusion over a Tehsildars letter
news CAA-NRC Friday, January 17, 2020 - 19:14

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday clarified that all works related to the updating of the National Population Register (NPR) in the state stand stalled. The Chief Minister's office issued the clarification after a letter by the Tahsildar of Thamarassery in Kozhikode district to a school headmaster said that NPR is scheduled to be carried out this year, triggered confusion. 

"An urgent statement has been issued to all district collectors by Principal Secretary KR Jyothilal (Public administration) that all works related to National Population Register has been stayed," the CM's letter read. 

On January 13, 2020, an official communication from the Thamassery Tahsildar and Census officer, issued to a government school in Kozhikode, said that 'Phase 1 of house listing, housing census and updation of NPR is scheduled to be carried out during 15 April 2020 - 29 May 2020." The letter was addressed to the school's headmaster, regarding 'appointment of supervisors and enumerators.’

In the communication, the teachers of the school were asked to submit their details as they would be the ‘functionaries and enumerators who would be responsible for data collection'. While the lower primary (LP) and upper primary (UP) teachers are designated enumerators in the Census collection process, high school teachers are designated supervisors, it said. 

Clarifying that this was wrong, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan further said that all officers who create confusion regarding NPR in the future would face strict action from district collectors, as instructed by the government. 

In December 2019, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had issued an order staying all activities connected to the updation of the NPR, amist massive country-wide protests against the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). According to several reports, data collected for NPR would be used to roll out NRC in the country. 

The reason cited for the stay was “apprehension among true general public about the conduct of NPR related activities leads to a National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the wake of the Citizenship Amendment Act." 

Pinarayi is the second Chief Minister in the country, after West Bengal CM Mamata Bannerjee, to stay NPR works in a state. With the recent letter from the Thamarassery Tahsildar triggering allegations of hypocrisy, the CM stepped in to reiterate that there was no change in the government's stance.

Can states refuse to implement NPR?

The NPR or National Population Register is a register of residents in the country which contains demography and biometric details. The Union government has decided to prepare the NPR between April 2020 and September 2020, with the exercise conducted at the local, sub district, district, state and national levels.

However, several questions have been raised on whether a state government can refuse to implement the NPR and NCR, which come under the purview of the Centre. 

According to a Bloomberg Quint report which has cited experts, citizenship and laws related to it come exclusively under the domain of the centre. Hence, state governments have no legal grounds to refuse compliance by not implementing the NPR and NRC.

However, data collection exercises for NPR and NRC involve lots of administrative machinery, which makes it impossible to implement it without cooperation from the states, senior advocate Chander Uday Singh argued in the report. 

State governments, however, can move the Supreme Court challenging the centre's directive to implement the NPR and NRC. However, they cannot refuse complying with the directive altogether, the report added. 

Read: Kerala challenges Citizenship Amendment Act in Supreme Court, first state to do so

Difference between Census and NPR data 

The Thamarassery Tahsildar's letter which sparked a controversy mentioned that the first phase of census 2021 along with NPR updation would be carried out in the state in April - May 2020. Which raises the question - what is the difference between the Census and the NPR.

While the Census is a population exercise conducted once in a decade to get a picture of the condition of India's residents, the NPR is a list of all residents of India who have lived in the country for over six months, regardless of their nationality. 

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