Census Data Can’t Be Used To Prep National Register Of Citizens: Centre

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The NRC exercise was first done in Assam

New Delhi:

Data from the census, whenever the exercise is carried out, cannot be used to prepare any other database including the National Register of Citizens, or NRC, the Home Ministry has said. The NRC exercise, which was first done in Assam, seeks to identify illegal foreigners staying in India and deport them.

The census was to be held in 2021, but it got delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not known when it would start.

“The census scheduled in 2021 and related field activities got postponed until further orders due to the outbreak of the pandemic,” Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai told Rajya Sabha today.

“The individual data collected in census under the Census Act, 1948 are not made public as per the provisions contained in the law. Only the aggregated census data at various administrative levels are released,” Mr Rai said in replying to a query by Rajasthan BJP MP Kirodi Lal Meena.

Mr Rai said the census would be conducted in a digital platform for the first time and include a feature for self-enumeration. “Mobile apps for collection of data and a census portal for management and monitoring of various related activities have been developed,” the minister said.

It may not be ideal to include teachers in census work as they are busy trying to cope with a backlog of academic work affected by the pandemic, a bureaucrat with direct knowledge of the matter said.

“Post-pandemic lockdowns, government school teachers, for example, are saddled with helping children cope with studies. Even if their participation in the enumeration exercise is a secondary task, the question is whether even that much time can be taken off from their educational requirements,” the official said.

Officials in the Registrar General of India’s office said they are ready to roll out the first digital exercise where people can register their details with their mobile number and email.

“After completing the process, they will get a code, which is to be shared with the enumerators during their field visit. The idea is not to spend too much time filling up forms during field visits as the data can be automatically checked and uploaded on the census portal,” a bureaucrat at the registrar’s office said.

The technical process is completely ready and can be rolled out anytime and it will be the first digital census, but it needs to complement field visits, an enumerator said.

He said special emphasis has been given on scientifically designing the census questions for faster processing and early release of data.

The demand for inclusion of Other Backward Classes, or OBCs, has been gaining ground by those who feel the government schemes and benefits can be rolled out better if the data is available.

Bihar, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh have written to the centre demanding OBC census. The Home Ministry has so far said caste-based census is unfeasible.

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