The Limitations of India's Census Legislation

Kumar, Vikas (2019) The Limitations of India's Census Legislation. Working Paper. Azim Premji University, Bengaluru.

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Most discussions on the quality of government data overlook the legal framework within which data are collected. This paper examines India’s Census Act, 1948, which provides the legal-administrative framework for conducting human population census. The Act stipulates punishment for interfering with the process of enumeration, but the punitive provisions are rarely used and have not been invoked to deal with cases of mass manipulation of the census. Major instances of manipulation were, in fact, reported in 1951 and 2001 after the government introduced additional punitive measures in 1948 and 1994, respectively. This paper compares the Census Act, 1948 with other Indian laws related to the collection of statistics as well as census laws of other common law countries and identifies the structural flaws of the Indian law vis-à-vis manipulation. It uses simple games to explain why the punitive provisions of the Census Act, 1948 are redundant in the event of mass manipulation and suggests that the problem can be addressed without recourse to law. The insights drawn from the games are examined in light of the experience of Nagaland, a state of India where census statistics were manipulated on a large scale in 2001.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Authors: Kumar, Vikas
Document Language:
Uncontrolled Keywords: Census, Conflict, Data quality, India, Law, Manipulation, Multiple equilibria, Nagaland
Subjects: Social sciences > Sociology & anthropology
Divisions: Azim Premji University > University Publications > Working Paper
Full Text Status: Public
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Note: The working paper series aims at reflecting the range of work done across the Azim Premji Foundation, including the Field Institutes and the University, and disseminating this work to a broader audience. University faculty, members of Field Institutes of the Foundation as well as students graduating from the University may contribute to the series. The findings, interpretations and conclusions expressed in these papers are entirely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Azim Premji University.
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