NPR: Aadhaar voluntary but back-door entry fear looms

Representative image. (DH File photo)

Government insists that providing Aadhaar number during the National Population Register (NPR) exercise is voluntary but the instruction manual for enumerators show that officials could ask for the card bearing 12-digit unique identification number to "accurately" enter the name of a person and date of birth.

This, activists believe, will provide for a back-door entry of Aadhaar number in the NPR document, as enumerators could persuade residents, especially vulnerable population, to part with the details.

The instruction manual for the NPR 2020 clearly mentions that parting with Aadhaar number is a voluntary exercise but at the same time it also says that the enumerators should make “extra efforts” to record the name of person and date of birth accurately. “If need be, ask for Aadhaar card, voter ID card of the respondent for reference,” it says.

It also asks the enumerator to inform the household while preparing the layout map or canvassing the House-listing schedule that the numbers like Aadhaar number, voter ID card number, mobile number, passport number and driving license number “may be kept ready for data collection under NPR”.

While government functionaries insist that no resident will be asked to provide Aadhaar and they could even refuse to provide any other document, activists believe there will be "unofficial" pressure on enumerators to persuade residents to provide with Aadhaar number, as “written and oral instructions are always not the same”. Also, they said, vulnerable and under-privileged residents may be asked to provide with such numbers citing that they may be edged out of welfare schemes.

They also wonder whether the inclusion of Aadhaar number in NPR violates the Supreme Court order that restricts the use of the unique identification number.

“If the purpose of the NPR is to prepare a register of usual residents. You do not need to know a person’s phone number, date of birth, Aadhaar, place of last residence, duration of stay, voter ID, driver’s license, etc to know that she/he is a resident. It is surprising that the government is spending precious resources on collecting so much extra information that it already has from other sources,” Dr Reetika Khera, Associate Professor (Economics and Public Systems) at IIM-Ahmedabad, told DH.

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