Northeast census operations going on smoothly

Agartala/Aizawl, June 25 (IANS) Census operations are going on in northeastern India, but unlike earlier times when officials were unable to visit the interior areas for ‘fear of militants’, separatist outfits have not created any problems this time round, say officials.

According to senior census operation officials, the first phase of the census, which includes house listing and door-to-door headcount for the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC), the process has been completed in four states – Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura.

The 45-day operation is under way in Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur and this would be completed by July 15.

‘There is no report of any trouble in the first phase of census work from any of the northeastern states, particularly where terrorists are active,’ senior census operation official Dilip Acherjee told IANS.

In the previous census operations, especially in 2001, terrorists created a lot of problems for enumerators in the interior, hilly and extremist-dominated areas of the northeast.

‘Census officials in the previous census could not visit most parts of interior areas due to fear of militancy,’ an official said on condition of anonymity.

Acherjee said: ‘Union Home Secretary Gopal Krishna Pillai held a review meeting in New Delhi earlier this month with the directors of census operation (DCO) of all states. No DCOs of the seven northeastern states pointed out any militancy related problems in the meeting.’

Registrar General and Census Commissioner C. Chandramouli and senior home ministry and census officials were present in the day-long meeting held June 10-11.

Acherjee, director of census operations in Tripura, said after the first phase of census work, the population data of the seven northeastern states would be scanned in the directorate of Assam census in Guwahati.

‘During the 45 days of the first phase of work and door-to-door visit, the census officials have been collecting personal information on every individual in each family. This would be incorporated in the proposed unique identification card (UID) project,’ the official said.

However, census operations have met with a bizarre obstruction in Mizoram. A section of the Christian community believes that the head count, and the allocation of a UID number, would mean being ‘identified by the beast’.

The Mizoram census officials said: ‘Some cults and sects of Christians believe the head count exercise, especially the introduction of UID numbers, would be ominous. Getting identified with UID numbers would mean getting identified by the beast (the devil).’

‘There are 1,355 families across the mountainous state who have refused to enrol their names for the NRIC,’ the officials added.

The issue was also discussed in the New Delhi meeting and it was decided to launch a campaign across the Christian- dominated state to break the superstition.

The Mizoram government told the people that they were liable to imprisonment up to three years and a fine of Rs.1,000 if they refused to cooperate with census officials on baseless and unjustified grounds.

‘Mizoram Chief Secretary Vanhela Pachuau held a meeting last week in Aizawl with the census and district officials and decided to make one last attempt to rid the families of their unfounded fear of the ‘beast’ or the devil,’ an official said.

He said the actual population enumeration would be undertaken simultaneously across the country Feb 9-28, 2011, followed by a five-day revision round March 1-5, 2011.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c@ians.in)

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