The National Population Register Its Genesis

By A Pyrtuh

The arrogance displayed by the Headmen of Puriang, Mawryngkneng, Ksehpyndeng, Pommura, etc in boycotting the meeting convened by the BDO,C&RD Block, Mawryngkneng to discuss matters pertaining to the long pending NPR, to protest against the order of the Honourable High Court of Meghalaya showing the “Rangbah Shnong” their proper place has pressured me to pen down this article with the hope that it may help all concerned to understand the idea behind the preparation of the National Population Register (NPR).

The deadly attack on Parliament House launched by terrorist from across the border on December 13, 2001 had rattled the entire nation in general and the Government of India in particular. The Government of India took immediate action by constituting the Group of Ministers (GOM) to deeply and thoroughly study and examine the existing National Security System in the country. The Group of Ministers in their report recommended that illegal immigration to India had assumed serious proportions. There should, therefore, be compulsory registration of citizens and non-citizens living in India. This should facilitate preparation of a National Register of Citizen (NRC). All citizens should be given a Multi-purpose National Identity Card (MNIC) and non-citizens should be issued identity card of a different colour and design (our NGOs may like to note this point). This should be initially introduced in the border districts or within a 20 Km border belt and extended progressively to the hinterland. The Government of India should meet full cost of the Identity Card Scheme.

The purpose of the scheme is to

  • Provide a credible identification system.
  • To act as deterrent to future illegal immigration
  • MNIC would help in obtaining multifarious individual and socio-economic benefits and in transacting various business within the government and outside, wherever necessary.
  • It would help in targeting all welfare schemes and services for the benefits of the individuals.

The project also envisaged that

  • Preparation of National Register of Indian Citizen (NRIC).
  • Provision of Unique National Identity Card (NIC) to all citizens.
  • Issue of Multi-purpose National Identity Card (MNIC) to all citizens of 5 years and above.
  • Continuous Updating of the register based on births and deaths and fresh registration of Indian Citizens.

The project has its own legal provisions. It is implemented by framing the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003under the provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 (57 of 1955). These Rules were harmonised with the provisions of Births and Deaths, Act 1969.

The Office of the Register General and Census Commissions, India would function as the National Registration Authority and the Registrar General, India as the Registrar General of Citizen Registration. The National Registrar would be prepared involving the machinery at the grass root level in a time bound exercise based on a methodology and pattern adopted for the decennial population census. Enrolment would be done by involving the local government officials at the village level Gram Panchayat/ Village Councils/ Municipal Wards.

The Office of the Director of Census Operations in States/Union Territories.The Registrar of Births and Deaths and State Government officials at the State and District levels would be assigned work of coordination at different levels. The Registrar of Birth and Deaths would step in at the stage of continuous updating.

As a first step towards implementation of the project the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India convened the meeting of all the Directors of Census Operation s in States/Union Territories in the last week of September, 2002 to apprize them of the intention of the Government of India to build up a National Population Register for both citizens of India and non-citizens. They were also told to be ready for timely conduct and timely completion of the pilot project that would be done in 13 States/ Union Territories of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Pondicherry, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The Pilot Project became necessary because of the complexity of the Multipurpose National Identity Card. It was felt that a full drill of simulation exercise for preparation of the National Population Register was essential. The Pilot Project was conducted at sub-district level. In Assam it was done in Karimganj district.

It was during the Pilot Project that Dr. D.D. Lapang as Chief Minister of Meghalaya had made vociferous plea to include Meghalaya in it to check illegal migration to the State though it could bring no benefit to Meghalaya because it was only a Pilot Project. But now that the Government of Meghalaya has been unable to make any progress in matters pertaining to the NPR though it has reached the final stage some time ago, Dr. D.D. Lapang prefers to keep silence.

Collection of particulars of individuals for building up the NPR was done during the period April 1st to May 15th, 2010. For the purpose the Government of India had to shell out Rs.1,500 per enumerator as honorarium. Nearly five years have elapsed since the field works were completed yet the Meghalaya Government has been unable to make any headway due to the unreasonable and myopic demand by the NGOs. It was lucky that in the recent arrangement for direct transfer for LPG subsidy to the Bank Account of the individual consumers, the district administration had waived the inclusion of the Aadhaar number. Otherwise all of us would have to pay the full price of the LPG cylinder. For the NGOs it makes no difference, as their pockets are always full because they can earn without a drop of sweat in their brow.

As pointed in para-2 ante, the recommendation of the GOM was crystal clear. Meghalaya has more than 400 kms of porous border with Bangladesh. There is no denying the fact that infiltration from Bangladesh to Meghalaya, especially to the coal mining areas of the State has been going on unabated. Yet the short sighted and hypocritical NGOs prefer to block the preparation of the NPR when the Government has been trying its level best to solve the immigration problems by preparing the NPR which is already in its final stages. Sheer hypocrisy! In the face of it, our NGOs are as semi-literate as the Headmen of Mawryngkneng areas. The CEM, KHADC not excluded. The Honourable High Court of Meghalaya had done no wrong. The order was just and fair. If unfair there is scope for appeal to the higher bench. There is the Supreme Court also where appeals can be made in the final stages if necessary.

There is no reason for the CEM, KHADC and the “Rangbah Shnong” to grouse and fuss about the order of the Honourable High Court of Meghalaya. After all there are rogues among the “Rangbah Shnong”. There are those who take bribes from land sellers and allow the latter to sell their land to non-khasis/non-tribals. In Madanrting that practice had been going on till the late 1990s and early 2000. Those roguish “Rangbah Shnong” are not different from traitors. Or should we call it a traditional practice since the “Dorbar Shnong” is a traditional institution? Can we term a heinous crime as traditional practice of the ‘Jaitbynriew’ when it suits us? It seems so.

Rat hole mining is called an indigenous practice from time immemorial because it suits both the coal barons and the coal mafia. Issue of NOC by the “Rangbah Shnong” is also called traditional practice because it suits them well. Till the late 1980s permissions for construction of residential houses outside municipality were obtained from the “Syiem” of Hima Mylliem. Yet granting permission to construct a house by the “Rangbah Shnong” is termed as a traditional practice. I am from West Jaintia Hills but right from the time of my great-great grandparents to my great-great grand nephews and nieces have never undertaken coal mining. Yet we don’t starve because of ban on rat hole mining by the NGT. We cultivate paddy, maize and other crops and our belly is always full. Our traditional practice was to plough our fields with yokes of bullocks or dig with spades(Mohkhiew). Today those implements were of the past, particularly the former. Today we go in for power tiller to cultivate paddy. We do not even rear bullocks today. Is it bad to break tradition?

In regard to dress only the Khasi-Pnar females are wearing traditional dress on daily basis though the “Jain kup” and “Knup” are rarely used today. The last time I saw two gentlemen wearing turban, waist coat and dhoti- the Khasi-Pnar male traditional dress-on regular basis was more than 50 years ago. Those wearing the G-string are still seen at Nongbareh. Our Rev Fr Sngi Lyngdoh, SDB in an attempt to keep tradition has been wearing the turban on daily basis even when he celebrates the Holy Mass. But his colleague in Sacred Heart College, a staunch supporter of tradition, sticks to his cassock/soutane. He should at least set an example by casting off his cassock/soutane and go for turban, waist coat and dhoti. The KHADC CEM, Adelbert Nongrum had attempted to exhibit his traditional sense by hanging a “ryndiatlem” from his shoulders and wearing a waist coat when he appeared in the High Court. The Judge was not impressed that he did not wear a dhoti. Oh great Khasi-Pnar male! How hypocritical thou art! Succulent while burning in the fire but tough while eating! Big talk inside the four walls but important outside! (“Khlien la thang jwat la bam. Ksan rympei, rem dorbar.”

 

 

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