Covid-19 casts a shadow on Census, NPR exercise

G Naga Sridhar Hyderabad | Updated on March 24, 2020

File photo   -  P_V_SIVAKUMAR

The coronavirus pandemic has cast a shadow on the demographic census and National Population Registry (NPR) work. The process is likely to be put off.

With 75 districts locked down as on Monday and many States on emergency mode, the work on Census has almost been put on the back burner, according to officials.

When contacted, a senior official from the office of the Registrar-General and Census Commissioner in India, told BusinessLine: “The schedule has been fixed from April 1 to September 2020. Implementation is a decision to be taken by the States depending on the situation.’’

Despite political controversy over NPR, the Centre is keen on the exercise and has also allocated about ₹3,950 crore for the project. The Union Home Ministry has already convened meetings with States a couple of months ago to coordinate the operations.

But in the event of further spread of the virus and extension of lockdown to more districts, the Home Ministry may think of postponing the exercise. It is currently adopting a “wait and watch approach’’, it is learnt.

While Census is essentially a function of the Centre, it is done in coordination with the States as enumerators and other human resources have to be allocated by the latter.

A top official in the Department of Health, Telangana, said: “Now that the coronavirus is on the gradual rise, the idea of sending enumerators to households for data collection is a risk for one and all. We strongly recommend against this at this juncture.’’

The enumerators will have to spend at least 10 minutes in each of the household as they have to obtain details of every individual including name, relationship to head of household, father's name, mother’s name, spouse's name (if married), sex, date of birth, marital status, place of birth, nationality, present address of usual residence, occupation and educational qualification.

They will also have to attend few hours training classes before commencing the exercise. All these have now been rendered difficult on account of the coronavirus.

Contentious issue

Even without the coronavirus threat, NPR, which has been tagged along with census enumeration and house-listing exercise, has been a contentious issue between the Centre and few States.

Legislatures of seven States — Telagnana, West Bengal, Kerala, Rajasthan, Punjab, Delhi and Bihar — have passed resolutions against CAA, NPR and NRC.

Published on March 23, 2020

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