Centre mooted NPR way back in 2015 through RBItext_fields
Mumbai: The recent storm of protests across the country against National Population Register (NPR) notwithstanding, the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre had conceived and taken a decision to implement it way back in 2015, more than a year before demonetisation, official sources reveal.
The Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance had issued a notification to the effect on July 7, 2015, while amending the Prevention of Money Laundering (Maintenance of Records) Amendment Rules, 2005.
The MoF notification had directed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to include NPR as one of the requirements for Know Your Customer norms besides the other existing Officially Valid Documents (OVDs).
The other OVDs were further described as: "The passport, the driving licence, proof of possession of Aadhaar number, the Voter's Identity Card issued by the Election Commission of India, job card issued by NREGA duly signed by an officer of the state government, the letter issued by the National Population Register containing details of name, address or any other document as notified by the Central Government in consultation with the Regulator".
It said that the OVD would recognise a name change after its issuance provided it was supported by a marriage certificate issued by the state governments or a gazette notification indicating such a change of name.
At that time, the late Arun Jaitley was the Union Finance Minister while Nirmala Sitharaman and Jayant Sinha were the two Ministers of State, but the issue has come to the fore in a big way only in the second tenure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.
Due to reasons not clear, it was only after nearly three years that the RBI included NPR in its KYC MD from April 2018 and in all successive MDs updated later, said the sources.
The issue had recently triggered panic among people as the NPR was announced by the RBI in its KYC Master Direction (MD) of January 9, 2020, months after it permitted a 'video-based Customer Identification process for verification'.
Adding to the confusion, the public-sector Central Bank of India (CBI) had issued an advertisement in a Hyderabad language daily including the NPR as the new OVD for opening bank accounts, applying for credit cards, and other banking formalities.
"This has been done as per the RBI's MD on KYC. We are merely following RBI' orders. It is one of the OVDs, and not mandatory as speculated in some quarters," CBI Managing Director Pallav Mohapatra told IANS.
Trade Unions Joint Action Committee (TUJAC) Maharashtra Convenor and banking expert Vishwas Utagi termed the development as "a systematic hoodwinking of the people and the parliamentarians by the BJP government".
"Such an important issue like NPR should have been discussed and announced separately and not included in a document pertaining to an amendment to some other existing laws. By this surreptitious strategy, the BJP has further raised suspicions on its real motives and intentions about the NPR, Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register for Citizens," Utagi told IANS.
RBI officials have already said that the NPR will be one of the OVDs required for KYC norms, but it (NPR) is not mandatory and even other documents are all at an equal footing.
Besides, the KYC documents are reviewed every few years depending on the risk categorisation of the customers, based on the FATFs Risk-Based Approach.
"So, normally, if a re-KYC is not done due to the customers' non-cooperative approach, banks can put a temporary debit freeze, making the account technically 'non-KYC compliant' till the customers cooperate," RBI sources told IANS, preferring anonymity.