Editorial

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Updated on


February 21, 2020


Published on


February 21, 2020

Pushing the NPR in a restive atmosphere could compromise the integrity of socio-economic data

Growing incidents of violence on official enumerators as an offshoot of the still-continuing protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) have deepened fears that for the first time since Independence, India may not be able to carry out the decennial National Population Census. The Census, a primary source for a vast variety of socio-economic data that forms the basis of policy-making, has been imperilled by the atmosphere of suspicion that has led to people increasingly interpreting any kind of official enumeration as an exercise in carrying out the CAA/NPR/NRC. Earlier this week, people in Jarcha village in Greater Noida, bordering Delhi, allegedly manhandled and held captive government employees conducting the Seventh Economic Census for the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. Similar incidents have been reported from at least nine States. The 78th Round of the NSSO (National Sample Survey Office) Socio-Economic Survey on domestic tourism expenditure may reportedly be postponed, apparently because surveyors are facing hostility in the field.

The implications of such disruption can be serious for the impending Census exercise, for which house-listing operations (where Census enumerators visit households to ascertain assets, income and number of members) are to begin this year. Economist Pronab Sen, who has been roped in to overhaul the statistical system, has warned that the fears over the NPR will compromise information gathering for the Census, and with it, every household survey or data derived from it for the next 11 years. This would be an unprecedented blow to the integrity of macroeconomic data in India, the robustness of which is already a subject of discussion. The government’s refusal to release some reports by the NSSO, International Institute for Population Sciences and Labour Bureau have not helped matters.

The government has underscored the role of Mudra loan disbursement in creating 11 million jobs in 2.5 years. But this needs to be borne out by jobs data (such as the Periodic Labour Force Survey), not just so that the people are informed but also because policymakers should know the facts on the ground. Despite public appeals by economists and researchers, the 75th Round on Survey of Consumer Expenditure has been kept under wraps, as was the last National Family Health Survey (NFHS), 2015-16, which was released after several rounds of protests and appeals by public health activists, academics and professionals. It may help to defer the NPR till the misgivings are cleared. If the exercise imperils the house-listing survey for the Census, it would be unfortunate.

Published on


February 21, 2020