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Cong calls G20 Summit moment for reflection, cites failure in conducting Census

Sep 08, 2023 03:09 PM IST

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said nearly every G20 country, including developing nations such as Brazil and South Africa, has managed to conduct the Census despite the Covid-19 pandemic

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Friday called the G20 Summit over the weekend in New Delhi a moment for reflection, citing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s “unprecedented failure” in conducting the decadal Census that was due in 2021.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh. (PTI)
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh. (PTI)

In a statement posted on social media platform X, he referred to the NDA as the “No Data Available” while underlining nearly every other G20 country, including developing nations such as Indonesia, Brazil, and South Africa, has managed to conduct the Census despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

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He added the “inept and incompetent” government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been unable to carry out India’s most important statistical exercise — conducted on schedule since 1951. He called it one of the government’s biggest failures and said it has resulted in the exclusion of 140 million Indians from their food entitlements under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

“This is a categorical denial of a fundamental right to the citizen guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution, which was implemented by the [previous Congress-led] UPA [United Progressive Alliance] government through the landmark National Food Security Act...”

He added the government was forced to rely on the NFSA as a critical lifeline in providing the much-needed safety net for the poorest during the pandemic. “Under NFSA, 67% of Indians are entitled to food rations. Since the Modi government failed to conduct the Census in 2021, it only offers NFSA coverage to 81 crore [810 million] people based on the 2011 Census, whereas 95 crore [950 million] Indians are entitled to the NFSA coverage, going by current estimates of the population.”

He added new beneficiaries are not being added and people have been denied their rights for at least two years now. “In July 2022, the Supreme Court noted this issue and directed the Modi government to rectify this untenable situation by using population projections. But no change was made.”

Ramesh said this “massive failure” shows not only the Prime Minister’s contempt for the court but also his disdain for the Constitutional rights of the people. He underlined the need for a caste census. Ramesh said that the socio-economic caste census conducted during the UPA rule in 2011 remains suppressed. “It [BJP] has even opposed the Bihar government’s attempt at a state-level Caste Census in the Supreme Court.”

He said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi highlighted the issue during his Bharat Jodo Yatra. Ramesh added Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge reiterated this in a letter to Modi in April. “It is absolutely critical to have an up-to-date and reliable Caste Census. Without establishing the count, categorization and characterization of the most numerous OBC [Other Backward Class] population, it is impossible to ensure adequate development and social justice for all Indians.”

Ramesh said the Modi government discredits, discards, or even discontinues collecting data it finds inconvenient to its narrative. “The Employment-Unemployment Survey of the Labour Bureau was scrapped in 2017; the National Crime Records Bureau stopped collecting data on mob lynching in 2017; data on GDP was manipulated in 2018 to make growth appear lower under the UPA; the Modi government told Parliament that there was no data on deaths of migrant workers walking thousands of kilometers home due to the unplanned lockdown, no data on the death of COVID-19 warriors, as well as no data on farmer suicides.”

He accused the government of covering up its failures in providing employment, stopping mob lynching, delivering income growth, ensuring dignity to migrant workers, and increasing farmer incomes.

Ramesh asked the government to stop denying 140 million Indians their basic rights under the NFSA and increase the beneficiary quota until the Census is carried out. He sought an updated national caste Census.

Ramesh asked the government to stop opposing state-level caste surveys, end the suppression of inconvenient data, and restore faith in India’s historically robust statistical system.

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