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Desai comments on India census challenges

Citizenship policies imperil data gathering

In an article published recently in Science, Vaishnavi Chandrashekar describes the challenge faced by the government of India when it begin its decennial count. The Hindu nationalist BJP party, she writes, has made a series of moves that place meaningful data collection in jeopardy : a National Register of Citizens project; sensitive questions added to the National Population Register (seeking information on parents' birthdates and places); and a law to fast-track citizenship processes for religious minorities fleeing from other countries but explicitly excluding Muslims.

“I worry about the implications for the well-being of Muslim communities,” Faculty Associate Sonalde Desai said. “If they don’t cooperate with the census, the data for that community will be of poor quality, which could affect services.” Further, statistical adjustments to correct for missing data would be problematic. “We could do adjustments for undercounts, but how well can we do it?” Desai asked. “What would be the baseline data? Would the adjustments be a political issue?” 

See the complete story in Science