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Delink Census 2021, National Population Register: 190 Indian, foreign academics

Counterview Desk
Prominent academics of top Indian institutes, including Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata), Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (Mumbai), Kolkata University, Indian Institute of Technology (New Delhi), Tata Institute of Social Studies (Mumbai, Hyderabad), Ashoka University, Azim Premji University, Delhi School of Economics, Reliance think-tank Observer Research Foundation, among others, have asked the Government of India to delink National Population Register (NPR) and Census 2021.

Mainly economists and social scientists, the 190 academics who have signed the statement include those associated with reputed international institutes like University of Trento (Italy), University of Tokyo, University of London, London School of Economics, University of Massachusetts (US), University of Surrey (UK), University of British Columbia (Canada), and Sapienza University of Rome.

Text:

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.
It is essential to ensure that the exercise of data collection for Census 2021 is 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.
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Click HERE for list of signatories

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