NEW DELHI: With protests across the country escalating against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register for Citizens (NRC), it is time retrospect whether if such a costly exercise is needed following the economic slump since the cost of ambitious initiative has rocketed to more than 500% from the 2011 Census.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team should spend more time and energy in making the upcoming Union Budget 2020-21, a win-win for all the strata of society with initiatives such as income tax slab rejig to ease out financial stress among middle-class families.
“The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the proposal for conducting Census of India 2021 at a cost of Rs. 8,754.23 crore and updation of National Population Register (NPR) at a cost of Rs. 3,941.35 crore,” the government’s statement read.
In 2011, the cost of the entire exercise was Rs 2,200 crore, which was estimated well below the world’s average spend on such an initiative. But this time, it has escalated to almost 550% to Rs 12,695 crore.
Now, the question may arise over the timing and need that too at a time when Muslim minorities, students, intellectuals, lawyers, and social groups are protesting across the country while the economy, on the other hand, needs a quick-fix. This should not be the Centre’s priority until at least mid-2020.
But over the last two weeks, senior government functionaries continue to reinforce the citizenship database. That, however, may be a crucial national strategy that should not be a part of any sort of backdoor data collection or use other than the one prescribed. The cost of conducting Census and updating the population database or register would come to a whopping Rs 12,695 crore.
Last week, former Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian said that India is facing ‘great slowdown’ with its economy heading towards an intensive care unit (ICU) led by a second wave of the twin balance sheet crisis at banking system.
Nonetheless, the comments were alarming. Growth for Q3 2019 was 4.5 percent, below the market expectations. Domestic consumption, the biggest driver of India’s economy has also slowed immensely.
The upcoming fiscal budget will have a tough task to bring healthier roadmap amid rising corporate sector’s concerns and falling domestic growth on the back of downturn worldwide.
Well, the government would plan to provision the Census and database registry spend in the Union Budget 2020-21.
The last Census was spread across 29 states and 9 union territories, covering 640 districts, 5,924 sub-districts, 7,935 towns and 625,000 villages with 27 lakh official staff recorded the data and classified the population according to gender, religion, occupation, and education.