New Delhi: In a significant development, the Union Cabinet on Tuesday approved a proposal to update the National Population Register (NPR), believed by many to be the first step in the Centre’s goal to carry out a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise.

The decision by the Cabinet comes amid the ongoing nationwide protests against both the NRC as well as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as a result of which the governments of West Bengal and Kerala-have stayed all NPR-related work across the two respective states.

According to reports, the NPR will be carried out between April-September 2020 in all states and union territories (UTs) across the country, except Assam as NRC has already been carried out there. 19 lakh people, mostly Hindus, were left off the NRC list there, triggering protests by leaders of the ruling BJP.

Additionally, the Cabinet, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is reported to have sanctioned Rs 8,500 crore for updating the NPR.

The NPR is an exercise through which a list of ‘usual residents’ of the country will be prepared. A ‘usual resident’ is defined as a person who has stayed in an area for six months or more, or someone who intends to stay in that area for six months or more. It is mandatory, and once published, will become the basis to carry out a pan-India NRC.

The data for NPR was first collected in 2010 when UPA-2 was in power; however, it was first updated in 2015, during the first term of the Modi government, by way of door-to-door surveys.

The digitisation of the updated data, according to several officials, has already been completed.