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Published in the 1-15 Oct 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

ISSUES

Census politics

K Banthia, the Census Commissioner has totally goofed up his figures. No sooner did he announce the figures in extreme hurry, communalists took it up and made a big issue. Media too helped to increase the confusion. BJP declared with alarm that Muslims are growing and Hindus are dwindling. He said that Muslim population has increased by 36% over the previous census but he realized later that the earlier census did not contain J & K and Assam figures. Hence it is not comparable. He came up with new figures telling that Muslim growth rate is merely 29.3% and tried to pacify the agitated Sangh Parivar, but it was too late as the damage has already been done. It became talking point for several channels and as usual Togadia, Modi and Venkiah painted an alarming picture and wanted to bring disincentives to those who produce more children. Muslims heard all these insults silently. But it is proved beyond doubt that even in BIMARU states, Muslim population growth is much below the Hindu growth. Only in certain pockets the growth is higher. Let everyone know that people do not have a ready-reckoner to count the population every time they enter into sexual intercourse. They are not expected to do so and no law prevents to have any number of children. This controversy has thrown up so many questions:

  1. Was it the responsibility and duty of Banthia to declare the figures without being discussed in the cabinet and parliament 
  2. It was the responsibility of family welfare department to study the report and then forward to cabinet.
  3. This census does not give income levels with respect to population growth, without which the census report will prove to be meaningless.
  4. The census report shows that around 50% of Muslim women and 40% of men are illiterate and hence it should be the responsibility of the govt. to provide them free education and jobs. Govt. did not take any measure to ensure that Muslims are given education and jobs. They are the poorest of the poor in this country. The successive governments are responsible for their plight. They do not want reservation but they want education and jobs. That’s all.
  5. The census was ordered by the previous Govt. and was the census commissioner given the brief the way the census should be conducted.
  6. Are these figures reliable? (No census person came to my residence to check)
  7. It is learnt that Modi has ordered a fresh census of his state Gujrat in order to prove or disprove the National census report. Is state govt. authorized to do so? Who will pay for this exercise?
  8. The Govt should dismiss Banthia for his misleading report and for coming to media without the approval of the Govt. and giving figures without proper verification.
  9. I suggest that every report should be thoroughly checked for omissions and commissions and discussed in parliament before publicizing.

Aboobakar Thwahir
aboobakart@rediffmail.com

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