Centre notifies rules for online self-enumeration during Census and NPR

To allow citizens to enumerate themselves in the Census and National Population Register (NPR) online, the government has notified certain amendments to the rules. The announcement about allowing online self-enumeration was made in 2020 but the rules have been notified only now.

In a gazette notification issued on Friday, the government amended the Census Rules, 1990, to include “electronic form” and “self-enumeration” in the schedule of questions to be asked during the enumeration. The amendment has been inserted in clause C of rule 2, which deals with definitions.

Clause C now reads: “Census schedule’ means the schedule containing questions referred to in subsection (1) of section 8 of the Act, in paper form or in an electronic form and can be canvassed in the said modes including through self-enumeration.”

Section 8 of the Census Act, 1948, gives powers to the enumerator to ask questions regarding the Census and makes it obligatory for respondents to answer with certain exceptions.

An explanation accompanying the new insertions says, “For the purposes of this clause, “electronic form” shall have the same meaning as assigned to it in clause (r) of subsection (1) of section 2 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (21 of 2000).”

Another insertion says that self-enumeration means filling up, completion and submission of the census schedule by respondents themselves. The government has inserted an extra clause in rule 6 as 6D, which says, “Without prejudice to any other provisions of these rules, a person may fill up, complete and submit the census schedule through self-enumeration.”

Amendments have also been made in rule 5, which deals with the “functions of census officers”. In clause C in rule 5, which says the census commissioner shall “devise the census schedules or questionnaires and provide to the state governments or Union Territory administrations for publication in their respective gazette in order to canvass in the census”, the government has inserted “and to be used for self-enumeration” after “in the Census”.

The Census, which was scheduled to begin in March 2020 with the house-listing phase and NPR enumeration followed by a population census, has been postponed indefinitely owing to the Covid pandemic.

Recently, the Centre extended the deadline for jurisdictional changes for all states to June 30, 2022. The deadline was December 31, 2021. According to sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs, which oversees the functioning of Registrar General of India, this has been done on the request of the states as they have not been able to update the jurisdictional changes for various reasons.

The government has also added language as to how the exercise should be publicised and how the census statistics should be published. In rule 5, which also deals with publishing of the census statistics through publications of magnetic media, the word “media” has been replaced with “electronic or any other media”. Rule 8 has added “print media, electronic media, social media” to the list of modes for ensuring wide publicity for the exercise. The earlier list had only radio, audio-visuals and posters.

Rule 9 has been updated to allow self-enumerated census schedules to be kept along with schedules and connected papers furnished by the enumerators at the office of the director of census operations or other places as directed by the census commissioner.

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