Govt Asked to Reduce Army’s Role in Upcoming Census

The Population Census Advisory Committee has recommended the government avoid the blanket decision to deploy Armed Forces personnel with civil enumerators in the upcoming 7th Population and Housing Census.

The Census Advisory Committee has prepared a recommendation report for the upcoming 7th Population and Housing Census.

The committee is of the view that the role of armed forces was not clearly defined in the previous census, and the army was also involved in parallel data collection, which is against the International Standards. As per International Standard, the census should be conducted by an independent civil body, and there should be no role of any other agency. Therefore, parallel data collection is against UN principles and should be avoided.

Keeping in view the particular ground realities of Pakistan, the committee is of view that as security conditions have considerably improved, therefore, the blanket decision of the use of Armed Forces in the 7th Population and Housing Census may be avoided and a hybrid area-specific approach may be adopted by consulting all provinces.

The committee suggested that three-tier security arrangements can be made to provide security and to avoid any inconvenience during the census. The areas with no security issues can be dealt with by the enumerators alone. However, the district management may be directed to depute law enforcement agencies during the census process to avoid any unforeseen events.

The committee also proposed that the police can accompany enumerators in areas of some concern, and the army may be deputed at the district/tehsil level as the Rapid Response Force. It also suggested that Army may be involved in areas where the security situation is of bigger concern.

However, keeping in view the importance of the matter, ”Involvement of Armed Forces regarding security issue may particularly be discussed with provinces and political parties and decision may be taken with consensus to avoid any controversy in the future,” the committee maintained.

The committee also proposed to form the National Census Coordination Center (N3C) for overseeing the proper coordination, effective monitoring, credibility, and ownership of the whole census process. The N3C will also authorize taking appropriate policy decisions. It will be equipped with well-designed multi-purpose dashboards for monitoring, trend analysis, and day-to-day decision-making for the successful completion of the National Task of the census.

Approximately 200,000 field staff was hired for the 6th Population and Housing Census with 10 percent reserve staff. After reviewing the difficulties faced in the last census, the committee proposed to increase the reserve staff from 10 percent to 15 percent for the 7th census. It also suggested involving more female enumerators for quality data collection.

The committee also proposed to involve graduate-level students along with teachers for training, data collection, and monitoring. Students may be hired from across Pakistan through Higher Education Commission (HEC).

Since the 7th Census is going to be conducted digitally for the first time in the country, therefore, to keep the process smooth and ensure 24/7 availability of the system, it was suggested to establish “Dedicated Census Support Centers” at the tehsil level. These centers will act as the backbone for census field operations having main responsibilities of handing/taking of handheld devices, installation & configuration of apps, etc. Moreover, they will perform every support function in the field. The Census Support Centers will also act as Control Room and Complaint Inquiry Office, etc.

The committee also proposed that a mechanism may be designed to authorize the general public to view their respective enumeration data through secure login/password during census activity for their satisfaction/verification (if required) as was demanded by the Technical Committee on Data Processing of Sindh Government during 6th Population and Housing Census. Respondents can report any discrepancy in data to Census Support Centre established at the tehsil level (if any). Call centers equipped with Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology may be adopted for complaint resolution and data validation and verification.

Original results of the census will be locked with reference dates of the census, the committee suggested,  However, for the smart update of records under the UN Principals, the general public will be informed through media/portal and social media to update their records through a well-designed customized web-application using authentication code.

According to the committee, this exercise will help in real-time updating of records like births, deaths, education, and other important indicators in-line with UN principles. This innovative technology will help to create different insights/reports of multiple updated indicators. By adopting this mechanism Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) will be enabled to design short surveys following the census in an efficient, cost-effective, and timely manner.

The committee also recommends that delimitation of areas and updating of maps of all blocks must be completed before the start of field operation to ensure complete field coverage. The frame must be frozen six months before the start of field operations. The provincial governments may be bound to provide the updated hierarchy before freezing the frame.

Further, Digitized Census Block maps prepared by PBS may be verified by the revenue as well as administration of urban areas before the census. For census 2022, it is recommended that Digital Maps may be provided to the numerator for enumeration activities. All big blocks may be bifurcated before the census operation.