Amid Coronavirus pandemic leading to a complete lockdown of India, Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday, said it has postponed the first phase of Census 2021 and the exercise of updating of National Population Register (NPR), until further orders.

The Census operation and related activities were scheduled to begin on April 1.

Earlier, on March 20, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had sought postponement of the Census operation and related activities which is scheduled to begin on April 1, taking in view the Coronavirus pandemic, saying the Centre should take an appropriate decision “in the interest of people”.

Patnaik, in a letter to PM Modi raised concern about the heath risk involved in the exercise to both the functionaries as well as the people who will be approached for the census updation as well as the National Population Register, across the country.

“As mobilisation for Census and other concerned activities shall pose a great risk for field functionaries and people as well, I would rather suggest to postpone the scheduled Census and related activities in the country,” he said in the letter a copy of which was released to the media.

The NPR will be a list of usual residents of the country. Once the NPR is completed and published, it is expected to be the basis for preparing the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC), a pan-India version of Assam”s National Register of Citizens (NRC), an official said.

For the purpose of NPR, a usual resident is defined as a person who has resided in a local area for past six months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next six months or more.

The NPR exercise will be conducted in conjunction with the house listing phase, the first phase for Census 2021. The NPR exercise is conducted at the local, sub-district, district, state and national levels. The RGI has already begun a pilot project in over 1,200 villages and 40 towns and cities through 5,218 enumeration blocks, where it is collecting various data from people. The final enumeration will begin in April 2020 and end in September 2020.

The last census was carried out in 2011 with a population count of 121 crore.