ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Disastrous Decade for Data

The Way Forward

In recent years, the Indian official data has been challenged for many reasons, most of them arising out of the perception that the government is reluctant to release unfavourable data. These doubts have been exacerbated by the controversy posed by the debate around Citizenship (Amendment) Act, National Population Register, and National Register of Citizens and the weakening of established institutions like the National Statistical Commission. The COVID-19 pandemic has further upset the data collection so that the first phase of the decennial population census and the proposed NPR exercise now stand postponed. Questions on credibility of official data and the pandemic-induced problems have come at a time when technology offers solutions to data collection, processing and dissemination. The initiatives launched by the government to improve the statistical system utilise these possibilities.

In light of the prevailing COVID-19 crisis, the Government of India has deferred the National Population Register (NPR) updating and the inception phase of Census 2021 that was to start on 1 April 2020. Given the unrelenting spread of the pandemic, it is impractical and the least advisable to send census enume­rators on the field to collect and validate the information from the households. Generally, statistical ­exercises take a backseat during calamities. In fact, the conduct of Census 2021 and NPR was under considerable debate and criticism over the past couple of years, primarily owing to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) enacted on 11 December 2019. These became intertwined with political overtones on the issue of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), over which protests swamped the country.

The recent years have seen a massive upsurge in demand for official data; for instance, socio-economic indicators, inclu­d­ing those supporting the Sustainable Deve­lopment Goals (SDGs), censuses and large-scale national surveys. This pheno­menal rise in the need for data is balanced by the availability of big volume data in various forms, owing to the use of mobile communications, increased social media interactions and digitally enabled transactions. The use and depen­dence on conventional data generated by government agencies for public use and validation of other data sets has also become widespread.

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Updated On : 13th Oct, 2020
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