Thursday, March 5, 2020

190 Economists, social scientists call for delinking of Census 2021, NPR

Fears  are growing among substantial sections that investigators can determine whether a respondent’s citizenship is “doubtful”. This possibility has already led to widespread public distrust and suspicion about the NPR Census 2010
A file photo of Census officials in a village in 2010 | Photo: Reuters



Concerned over the linking of National Population Register (NPR) and Census 2021, 190 economists and social scientists have signed a document demanding that both be delinked. Signatories include Maitreesh Ghatak of London School of Economics, S Irfan Habib, Jayati Ghosh of Jawaharlal Nehru University, among others.


These eminent economists and social scientists said that while Census is an important exercise and helps centre and state governments make and implement welfare schemes effectively, the widespread public distrust on NPR is dangerous.


Here is the full text and the list of signatories:

We are economists and social scientists who are deeply concerned about the major implications for the Indian statistical system, of the attempt to combine data collection for the 2021 Census of India with that for the proposed National Population Register.

The Census of India, which provides a basic household and population listing based on anonymous data, is an essential requirement for the country and provides the statistical basis for all assessments of the conditions of the population and for necessary social and economic policies. The Census data are also important in enabling central and state governments to exercise their basic functions and meet their responsibilities to the people. It is therefore essential to ensure that the exercise of data collection for Census 2021 is absolutely safe, comprehensive and uncontaminated by any other factors.

However, there is a real danger that the concerns around the National Population Register and the fears that are growing among substantial sections that investigators can determine whether a respondent’s citizenship is “doubtful”. This possibility has already led to widespread public distrust and suspicion about the NPR, and it is not at all clear that there are any benefits from the NPR at the present juncture. 

Conducting NPR along with the Census also violates Clause 15 of The Census Act 1948 that bars anyone from accessing “any book, register or record made by a census-officer in the discharge of his duty”. It also violates the provision in the same clause that “no entry in any such book, register, record or schedule shall be admissible as evidence in any civil proceeding other than a prosecution under this Act”.

We, therefore, demand that, in order to preserve the integrity of Census 2021, it should be completely delinked from any NPR exercise. In any case, any attempt at data collection for the NPR should be abandoned at present.--BS

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