The state Cabinet, which met on Monday, has decided to inform the Centre that Kerala will not be updating the National Population Register (NPR). There are concerns that the data collected for NPR would be used to implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the country.
The cabinet has decided to inform the Registrar General and Census Commissioner that the state will stay away from updating and renewing the NPR. But the government has also 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,” said Finance Minister Dr Thomas Issac in his tweet.
The Cabinet has also opined that NPR will pave way for the implementation of the National Register of Citizens, which has sparked widespread protests across the country.
“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 stated in its official release.
The NPR or National Population Register is a register of residents in the country containing demographic and biometric details. While the Census is a population exercise conducted once in a decade, the central 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.
The state government also pointed to the situation in Assam after NCR was implemented there, as an example of why it should not be carried out elsewhere.
“The state police chief has also given a report that the implementation of NPR will give rise to serious law and order issues. District Collectors have also informed the government that it will be difficult to carry out Census procedures if it is intertwined with NPR,” the statement said.
The decision against updating NPR was first mooted by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in December 2019 following the agitations against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and NRC. It was cited that the state government is staying away from NPR since there were apprehensions among the public that activities related to NPR might lead to the implementation of NRC.
Last week, the Chief Minister’s Office had repeated the government’s stance on NPR by clarifying that the state will not undertake any works related to it. The clarification came after Tahsildar of Thamarassery taluk in Kozhikode district issued a letter to a school principal stating that NPR is scheduled for this year. Following this, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also stated that officials who create unnecessary confusion regarding NPR will face strict action.
It was West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who first declared that NPR will not be implemented in the state. Following that, Chief Minister Pinarayi came out stating that NPR will not be updated in Kerala as well.
But questions have also been raised on whether states can stay away from NPR which is under the juridstriction of the central government.
Kerala is also the first state to move the Supreme Court against CAA. The state Assembly has passed a resolution against the controversial legislation which offers citizenship to refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh based on religion.