The first official admission of political interference came on Monday from the Census Commissioner in Sindh, Noor Muhammed Leghari, who assured that the problem would be raised at the Provincial Coordination Committee meeting on April 13.
Addressing press conference at the Sindh Assembly committee room, he said the commission had received a number of such complaints. “Most of the complaints are from Karachi and Hyderabad. We have to brief the chief minister and other quarters on it. It is a very sensitive issue and we will devise a strategy to deal with this.”
Control rooms have been established at the offices of DCOs and DDOs who are supposed to monitor and make sure the process is transparent. People can lodge their complaints over there.
On a more positive note, he said that 35 to 40 per cent of the housing census has been completed. “The census began on April 5 and it is our goal to complete it by April 19.” The date could be extended with the approval of the federal government.
He appealed to the public to cooperate with the field officers to complete the listing of houses in the province. “There are some problems we are facing in reaching out to some urban and rural areas,” he said.
“It may be clarified that under the first phase only houses and flats and all villages in rural areas will be listed without any discrimination.” He said that those with computerised identity cards and old ID cards and even those without them will also be counted. “We have set up control rooms at provincial headquarters and also directed DCOs and DDOs to supervise the census and look after grievances from every quarter.”
Leghari said the census will be the basis of planning and development in the country. He said the population census will be completed in three or four months after the house listing is completed. The province has been divided in 35 blocks.
Meanwhile, in Hyderabad, people are complaining that the census lacks transparency. But the district government has brushed them aside. “House listing should not be confused with the population census.”
In a press statement issued on Monday, the district government said that 94 per cent of the residential units in the city have been given numbers.
Complaints started pouring in as soon as the process began: allotting a single number to an apartment building with 10 or more flats and vice versa. Ethnicity seems to be the driving factor for the ‘deliberate miscalculation’. Some blame political influence, others attribute it to the census staff being poorly trained.
“Perhaps, the fact that the staff is mainly made up of school teachers is causing house listing problems,” said an official of the education department. But he explained that the education department was not at the helm of affairs. “We are just assisting by providing teachers to man the census teams.”
But the district government statement clarifies that only one number will be issued to every unit even if it is an apartment inhabited by two or more families - because this phase is purely a house census, not a population one.
Census: a count of voters?
According to independent observers, all political parties are playing an active role in the census, especially the population census which will begin from either August or September. The last thing they would want to see is prospective voters not being listed, they claim.
WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM APP
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2011.
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