Opposition wants census to be put on hold in Kerala, Pinarayi refuses

Opposition wants census to be put on hold in Kerala, Pinarayi refuses
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala

The Opposition staged a walkout in Kerala Assembly on Thursday urging the government to temporarily put on hold census activities until concerns related to the National Population Register (NPR) were fully addressed.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, however, assured the House that there was no cause for worry as clear directions have been given to district collectors, the principal census officers, to stop all activities related to NPR in Kerala. “Information will be collected only for the census. We cannot keep away from the census,” the chief minister said.

Muslim League leader KM Shaji, who moved the adjournment motion on the issue in the Assembly, argued that after the state government had picked the enumerators for the census activities it had lost authority over them. “These enumerators are fully under the control of the Central Census Commissioner. The information collected, too, is sent directly to the Centre. There is also the chance that the state will have no idea about the questions asked,” Shaji said.

Quoting from an answer the chief minister gave in the Assembly, Shaji said the chief minister himself had made it clear that he had no control over the activities of the principal census officers, the district collectors. He said the Centre was trying to implement the NPR using the cover of the census. Both the census and NPR activities were under the same directorate, he said.

Shaji also pointed out that the government pleader had informed the Kerala High Court that all activities related to the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, had begun in the state. “I want to know whether the chief minister, too, holds this opinion,” Shaji said. The chief minister, however, did not touch upon this in his reply.

Further, Shaji said the Census Directorate had not responded to any of the letters sent by the state informing its decisions, including the stay on NPR in the state.

Opposition wants census to be put on hold in Kerala, Pinarayi refuses
Muslim League leader KM Shaji

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala and later Muslim League leader M K Muneer flagged yet another administrative issue related to the NPR. The state government had issued an order on November 12, 2019, appointing census officers and declaring that house-listing for census operations and updation of the NPR would be held during April and May.

On December 13, 2019, the government had issued another order that stayed all activities related to the NPR.

The Opposition leader's contention was that though the government stayed the NPR in the state, the original November order had not been withdrawn. “This is why tahsildars of Thamarassery, Koduvally and Manjeri still issue orders related to the NPR. They cannot be faulted if the November order still exists,” Chennithala said.

The chief minister said the Centre was clearly aware of the state's position. “Our representative had made it clear during the meeting convened by the Census Commissioner in Delhi,” the chief minister said. “Yet, if as the Opposition says there is a problem, we will look into it,” Pinarayi said.

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