The socio economic data of the people residing in a country is very important for the government to improve administration, and efficient delivery of public services. As per the office of Registrar General & Census Commissioner website, Arthashastra, the much celebrated text on governance and political economy, prescribed collection of population statistics for collection of taxation.
The current form of decennial census exercise was started by the British Government in 1881, and has continued till date. This time, the 2021 census will be conducted under the leadership of Home Minister Amit Shah, and the government has allocated 12,000 crore rupees for the mammoth exercise.
The Modi government has championed the use of digital technology in the last five years and the next census would also be a digital one. Shah said, “A mobile app will be used in Census 2021. It will be a transformation from paper census to digital census.”
The government will also prepare National Population Register (NPR) which as per an article by The Hindu, will include, “An ordinary resident is defined as a person who has resided in a local area for past six months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next six months or more.” This is not linked to the National Registrar of Citizens (NRC), as falsely reported by many media organizations including The Economic Times.
The UIDAI has allowed voluntary use of Aadhar data to prepare National Population Register. The NPR will collate demographic data from census and biometric data from Aadhar to prepare a comprehensive identity database. “It will include 15 categories of demographic information and Aadhaar number of those who are willing to provide during NPR updation. Collection of biometrics is not been provided under Citizenship Rules,” said an official.
The NPR data can be used to club all other forms of identification like Aadhar, PAN, Driving License, and Electoral Identity Card. Amit Shah said, “Why can’t we have just one card for all utilities like Aadhaar, passport, bank account, driving licence and voter card. There should be a system where all data should be put together in a single card. This is a potential. That is why digital census is very important.”
NPR would be updated regularly and it will help the government in tracking criminal activities. It will also helpful in delivery of public goods without leakage.
Imagine a centralized database with bio-metric and demographic profile of every person in the country. It would substantially help in governance, will solve law and order problem, would help the companies in allocation of loans, credit card, and check authenticity of a person. The NPR would be akin to the Social Security Number (SSN) of the United States, which helps the US government in taxation, delivery of social security and many other purposes.
“NPR will prove to be a game changer in the country. Digital census has many benefits. If a child takes birth and attains the age of 18, then he/she should be able to vote automatically without applying for a voter identification card,” said Amit Shah.
The government has already launched National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) in March, under ‘One Nation One Card’ scheme which envisages a common card for Bus, Metro, Suburban Transport, and could be used for retail payments as credit/debit card across the country.
The National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP), 2006 has a provision to provide citizens of the country one such card. But the poor execution ability of Congress government was displayed in the implementation of the policy. The infrastructural work to provide people one such card started only after the Modi government came to power and at the end of the term it became a reality.
Modi government succeeded in integration of mobility cards in the first term, although it is still in its nascent stage. By the end of second term of the government, the people of the country might have a single identity card for verification and social security purposes. After the creation of single identity card, the mobility card might be integrated with it.
This will immensely help the government as well as people of the country, and improve ‘Ease of Living’ in India. The 2019 budget promised to focus on Ease of Living, and integration of identity card is an important step in the direction. In the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event at NRG stadium in Houston, Texas, PM Modi reiterated the government’s commitment to Ease of Living and Ease of Business.