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Biometric Test Bed: India's Census and Biometric National ID Card

As the head of an army of 2.7 million enumerators who will fan out for almost a month beginning 9 February, Chandramouli talked to Mint about the methods and controversies of the second phase of India’s 15th census exercise. Edited excerpts: The National Population Register (NPR) seems to be designed to serve as a platform for a lot of other government programmes such as UID (unique identity program); how the rural health mission has fared. What’s the thought behind this? The office of the registrar general wears several hats. One of the hats that I wear is the Census commissioner. The other hat is the Registrar General of birth index. The third hat is the National Registrar of Citizens. The NPR that you are referring to is done under the Citizenship Act. So this is a completely different exercise than the Census. We are only piggybacking on the first phase of the Census to get the details required for the NPR collected. We have collected and scanned those forms, now we in the process of digitising. After Census is over, from April we will start collecting the biometrics (photographs, 10 fingerprints, 2 iris prints) and this will feed into the UID. After getting the UID, we will be issuing the National Population register card to every usual resident. (Usual residents are defined as ones who are staying or intends to stay at that particular place for at least six months) That will be the basic identity document which will be a smart card and this will be used for various purposes of the government. UID is giving only the numbers. We are taking that number, putting that on a card and giving it to Indian residents. NPR will have residents as well as non-residents. The entire usual residents of this country. The next step of that will be citizens. This is an intermediate stage where we first create the population register and after due verification we will create the citizens register. So this is a different exercise than the Census.

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