The uncertainty about the next census, which was due in 2021, does not bode well for the development of the country. Statistics is of the essence in a planned economy like that of India. As an institution the census is as old as Jesus, who was born at Bethlehem while his parents were on their way to take part in a census. In India, the British introduced the census in the 19th century more for their own colonial interests than to promote planned growth. They held it from time to time. When India became independent, a decennial census was introduced and continued to gather details about the population to be used in the planning process. The last census was held in 2011 and the details began to come out within two years.
The statistics gave a clear picture of the socio-economic condition of the people. How many of them had proper houses to live in, how accessible the schools and colleges were to the students and how many came under the poorest of the poor category that needed to be given ration, almost free of cost. It is not easy to collect such details about an estimated 1.3 billion people. It is a gargantuan operation that calls for the training of tens of thousands of enumerators who are mostly school teachers, whose services have to be obtained without disrupting their school work. Tabulation and analysis of the data also call for vigorous exercise. It is understandable that the Covid-induced disruptions affected the 2021 census. However, the mystery is why Covid is still blamed for not initiating the next census which can be concluded in a little over a year’s time.
Alas, the central Government does not seem to be in a hurry to hold the next census for which no preliminary work has been initiated. This raises questions about the Government’s bona fides vis-a-vis the 2021 census. How vital the census is can be gauged from the fact that the Government should know how many students there would be if a new school is opened in a village or how many people would benefit from a new hospital or dispensary. Of course, the census will also expose the Centre’s claims about rural electrification, ending of open defecation and upliftment of large sections of people above the poverty line. If there is a hiatus between the claims and the reality, it may show the ruling party in a poor light in the 2024 elections.
Avoidable fracas in Tamil Nadu
What the Tamil Nadu Assembly witnessed on Monday is a negation of constitutional norms. As Governor, RN Ravi was bound to read out the text of the governor’s address approved by the state cabinet and forwarded to him. The Governor may not personally agree with all the contents of the speech which contains the policies and programmes of the elected Government. The Constitution very clearly delineates the limitations of the Governor. That is how Governors appointed by the central Government have always addressed the Assemblies where other parties are in majority. The heavens would not have fallen if Ravi had read out the controversial portions which only mentioned the names of Tamil leaders besides that of BR Ambedkar.
Also, Chief Minister MK Stalin did not crown himself with glory when he moved a resolution stating that the Government would be guided by the complete text as prepared by the Government and not the pruned text as delivered by the Governor and that too, in his presence. It was certainly an insult to the Governor who could have also waited for the National Anthem to be sung before leaving the House. After the Governor had left the House, the Chief Minister could have reiterated that whether the Governor read it or not, his Government would be guided by the principles enunciated by the great Tamil leaders. Both of them should have remembered that they hold Constitutional jobs where propriety and decorum need to be maintained at all times. Tamil Nadu is not the only state where the CM and the Governor are at loggerheads. It is time the President took the initiative to impress upon Governors that their duty is to protect the Constitution, not score brownie points with the CMs.
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