Nepal | November 27, 2020

EDITORIAL: Population census

The Himalayan Times
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The upcoming population census will be vital for the government to lay out development plans in all the provinces

The first population census was undertaken way back in 1911. The total population of the country at that time was 5.6 million. Now the country’s population is projected to be around 30 million, five times more than what it was 110 years ago. Nepal’s population growth has increased by an average 2 per cent per year as per the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).

Four censuses conducted before 1952/54 were known as “head counts” as there was no provision of collecting other vital information determining the quality of life of the people. There has now been sea change in the process of collecting data to know about the real status of the people since the 5th population census. Vital information from education and health status, access to drinking water, life expectancy, availability of jobs at the local level, culture and religion, and language to migration pattern has been included in the recent censuses. The process of data collection has now become more scientific compared to the previous ones that were largely rudimentary and did not help in carrying out planned development works. Since the country was declared a republic in 2008, well before the new constitution came into force in 2015, people have also become more conscious about their identity, language, culture and religion, and most of them identify themselves as belonging to separate ethnic groups/ communities, which was widely reflected in the 11th census in 2011.

The 12th National Population Census will be held for 15 days from June 8 to June 22, 2021.

According to the CBS, this one will be more descriptive as additional details will be collected through the census. Detailed description of the households, such as ownership, uses and structure, land use for agriculture purpose and its size, number of animals and fowls and number of houses constructed under government grant, the number of people who have taken vocational and skill-based training, working status and reason for not working, among others, will be additional questions in the 12th census. The respondent will have to answer as many as 80 questions. CBS officials say the data will be available upto the ward level, which will be useful to all the levels in charting out development plans as per the population distribution.

For this purpose, the CBS will form eight different coordination panels, including technical and thematic ones, encompassing the three tiers of government from the central to the ward level. Around 43,000 enumerators and 9,000 supervising staff will be mobilised to collect data in line with the federal structure. It will take at least one year to process the national data. This time around, no teachers will be hired to collect the data. People from the local levels will be hired as enumerators through open competition.

As the 12th census will also be collecting data about the actual status of the country’s farmland and the number of farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture will not need to conduct a separate census on these two issues as announced by the ministry. The population census, which will possess vital information of all sectors, will be instrumental for the government and policymakers to lay out a future plan of action for the country.

Crime and punishment

The authorities must be commended for slapping prison terms and fines on those traders found relabelling date-expired foodstuffs and selling them in the market. The authorities have sentenced the owners of two companies to a year’s imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 300,000 each while slapping a fine of Rs 312,000 on seven others. It is common knowledge that Nepal’s markets are awash with date-expired foodstuffs and medicines. However, because the consumers were largely unaware of this, traders managed to get away with it. But with rising consumer awareness and vigilance by the authorities, traders have found a way to keep duping the people — by tampering with the food expiry dates.

In any country, selling date-expired foodstuffs is a serious crime as it is playing with the health of the people. Consumer forums would have sued the offending traders and made them pay heavy penalties.

Unfortunately, the consumer forums in Nepal are weak, and market monitoring by the concerned department and authorities is not taken up seriously, which gives room for unscrupulous traders to engage in unethical business. In such a situation, only severe punishment will serve as a deterrent to the crime.

A version of this article appears in print on November 11, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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