Population register biggest exercise in history: Chidambaram

New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) Describing the preparation of a National Population Register (NPR) that will collect specific information of each person residing in India as ‘the biggest exercise since humankind came into existence’, Home Minister P. Chidambaram Thursday cautioned India’s border districts to be vigilant while enrolling people.

‘Nowhere in the world has a government tried to count, identify and issue identity cards to more than a billion people. This is the biggest exercise, I believe, since humankind came into existence,’ Chidambaram told a conference of state coordinators, district magistrates and deputy commissioners at Vigyan Bhavan here.

The home minister warned that border districts need to be cautious as there had been some instances where people from across the border have tried to get themselves enrolled in the NPR.

‘While such cases will come to light when the details of usual local residents is displayed in the villages and wards and later when it is placed in the ward committees, it is essential that the local level officials as well as elected representatives are alive to this fact and act in time,’ he said.

The proposed NPR would contain such information as name, sex, date of birth, current marital status, name of father, mother and spouse, educational level attained, nationality, occupation, activity pursued, present and permanent addresses.

The database would also contain the photograph and finger biometry of persons above the age of 15. Under this scheme, every individual would be assigned a unique National Identification Number (NIN). The NPR is expected to be ready by 2014.

Chidambaram pointed out that the exercise which is already underway in 3,000 villages and towns showed that people were eager to participate and needed little persuasion.

‘However it would be our duty to ensure that we reach out to each and every person. This means special efforts will be required to ensure the coverage of vulnerable sections of society like the elderly, handicapped, weak and marginalised,’ he said.

While presenting the ministry’s report card for February earlier this week, Chidambaram said that the biographical details of about 8.5 million people and the biometric details of about 3.3 million had been collected so far.

‘A word would have to be said on the need to ensure not only quantitative coverage but qualitative coverage. This can be ensured only through extensive monitoring of the district officials,’ he added.

‘The present exercise involves more than 2.5 million field functionaries. It has to be ensured that this vast workforce gives a qualitative output otherwise all our efforts would be nullified.’

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