The Indian National Census, conducted every ten years, has officially started.  The census has been conducted regularly since 1872, and this will be the 15th one. It is a mammoth exercise, the physical counting of 120 crores population and classifying them according to gender, religion, occupation and education.

The President of India, Smt. Pratibha Patil, was the first person to be listed. She has appealed to fellow Indians to follow her example “for the good of the nation”.

Manish Bharadwaj, Director of census operations explains that in this census the National Population Register (NPR) programme had been linked to the census exercise for the first time.

The primary identification information about individuals will be collected at the first stage. At a later stage, a photograph and biometric data about each individual above 15 years of age, will be collected. This will include facial characteristics and fingerprints of all ten fingers. It may also include pictures of the iris of each individual.

Manish Bharadwaj further says- 

 “Anyone who refuses to give the required information can be fined Rs1,000 by the designated officer.”

Usha Ramanathan makes some very interesting points in her article in The Hindu- “Implications of registering, tracking, profiling”

She says-

 The NPR is not an exercise undertaken under the Census Act 1948. It is being carried out under the Citizenship Act of 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules 2003.

And this makes an important difference.

Section 15 of the Census Act categorically makes the information that we give to the census agency “not open to inspection nor admissible in evidence.” The Census Act enables the collection of information so that the state has a profile of the population; it is expressly not to profile the individual.

This provision regarding confidentiality  is not only absent in the Citizenship Act and Rules-

 but there is an express objective of making the information available to the UID Authority.

The Indian Express has advised Indian citizens to keep all require information about their assets, educational qualifications, residence, etc. handy so as to be able to answers the questions the census officials will ask. These will include-

Material of the floor, wall and roof of the building
Use of the building/condition of house
Number of persons normally residing in the house
Name, caste and sex of the head of the house
Ownership status of the house
Number of dwelling rooms in the house
Number of married couples in the house
Source of drinking water/availability of drinking water
Source of lighting
Availability of toilets in the premises
Waste water outlet connections
Availability of washrooms in the premises
Availability of kitchen/fuel used for cooking
Assets like radio, transistor, television, computer, internet access, telephones, mobile phones, bicycle, scooter, motor cycle, moped, car, van, jeep etc.
If availing bank services
Information needed for the National Population Register
Full name
Date of birth
Marital status
Educational qualification
Occupational activity
Place of birth
Present address
Permanent residential address

Census officials have visited Sonia Gandhi’s residence at 10 Janpath in New Delhi and collected her details.

 So I suppose it would be churlish of us ‘ordinary folk’  to refuse to give ours! Even though I do wonder what would happen if I refused to disclose my caste or religion. Would I be fined a thousand Rupees?

What do you think?