Why we need data

by December 31, 2019 0 comments

Preparation of a NPR and decennial census is a legitimate activity of the Union Government and the data thrown up by these exercises form the basis for policy-making

The false propaganda unleashed by some political parties against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, has now got extended to the mandated programme to prepare the National Population Register (NPR) and the conduct of the decennial census, which are scheduled for 2020 and 2021. Several opponents of the current establishment in New Delhi have been spreading disinformation about the NPR and the decennial census, both of which are tools essential for governance.

The purpose of the CAA is to provide citizenship to persecuted religious minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who crossed the borders and came into India before December 31, 2014. This has nothing to do with any Indian citizen, whatever be his or her religion. Nor does it open the floodgates for migrants because of the deadline fixed in the Act. The NPR and the decennial census are meant to get demographic information and also inputs on the social and economic status of the population in different regions of the country. Neither of these exercises is aimed at disenfranchising anybody.

The NPR exercise was formulated and introduced by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in 2010, to collect demographic and biometric information about individuals. Here, enumerators go door-to-door and gather particulars about “usual residents” — individuals residing at a given place for the preceding six months. It is, therefore, strange to find that the Congress, the very initiator of this idea, is now opposing it and is doing so with such vehemence that it all looks like a theatrical act.

The census in India is primarily a head count and has been rightly described as the largest administrative and statistical exercise in the world. Three million individuals will be deployed to collect the data and for the first time, the enumerators will be using a mobile app and other modern applications to collect and collate data from the field.

The decennial census is being conducted in India since 1892 without a break and this is an important exercise from a national point of view because it tells us about the demographic changes that have taken place at the national and local level in the preceding 10 years. Both these surveys provide policy-makers critical data that enables them to formulate national programmes, especially with regard to basic amenities to the less-advantaged sections of society.

As stated by the Government, the census is the biggest source of primary data at the village, town and ward level, providing micro-level data on various parameters, which includes housing, education, economic activity, literacy, migration, fertility, language, religion, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

Preparation of a NPR and decennial census is a legitimate activity of the Union Government and the data thrown up by these exercises form the basis for policy-making not just at the federal level but at the State, district and taluk levels as well. It was, therefore, shocking to see someone like Arundhati Roy exhort citizens to provide fake names and addresses to the enumerators so as to render the entire exercise infructuous. Media reports indicate that she even suggested that the people provide “7, Race Course Road” — the address of the Prime Minister at one time — as their residential address.

Even more preposterous was her suggestion that the Narendra Modi Government, which got a massive mandate from the people in May 2019 to govern till 2024, not be allowed to continue in office.

Her attempt to paralyse the working of the Union Government in regard to collection of population data and to curtail the tenure of a duly-elected Government constitutes subversion of the Constitution. Tolerance of such subversive activities is inimical to national unity and integrity and we should not allow a small minority of dissenters to disrupt governance and democratic traditions in this manner.

Further, the propaganda that the enumeration undertaken for the NPR must be resisted because it is against the Muslim minority in India, is totally baseless. It appears as if some people are afraid of the truth.

Data is critical for a number of reasons. For example, the Union Government and many State Governments have formulated policies and welfare schemes especially to ameliorate the conditions of the religious and linguistic minorities. These schemes relate to education, employment, skilling and financial assistance for self employment. The scope and range of these schemes depend on demographics and a decadal head count is an absolute must. The census data is used not just by the Union Government but by Governments and institutions down below at the State, district and taluk levels.

Pseudo-secularists seem to believe that the Muslims are the only minority in India. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The Hindus in India constitute just around 80 per cent of the population, which means in actual numbers, they would be about one billion of the 1.33 billion population. But the Hindus constitute a minority in six of the 28 States in the country and in a few Union Territories, as do the Christians (except in some States in the North-east), the Sikhs (except in Punjab), the Buddhists, the Jains and the Parsis. The Muslim population in India has risen from 35 million at the time of Independence to around 175 million at this point in time.

Further, we have the linguistic minorities, who are at par with religious minorities as per our Constitution. A reading of Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution will make it clear that the intention of the founding fathers was to accord the same kind of protection to both religious and linguistic minorities and the State would be the unit to determine who is a minority.

A Kannadiga in Hindi-majority Haryana (as this writer is) gets as much protection as say, Mohammed Iqbal, in Hindu-majority Haryana as per these Constitutional provisions.

Therefore, if pseudo-secularists oppose population data collection and census, which is a legitimate Government activity in all nations across the world, the presumption will be that they are afraid of the numbers that will crop up. The steep rise in the Muslim population in India over the decades and the huge difference between the decadal growth rates of Muslims vis-a-vis the Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis, will nail the lie that Muslims are persecuted in India.

Indian citizens, who are adherents of Islam, must, therefore, guard against the false narrative of this minuscule minority of pseudo-secularists and should not allow themselves to be persuaded to oppose the NPR or the census. India will become ungovernable if such tendencies emerge.

(Writer: A Surya Prakash; Courtesy: The Pioneer)

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