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Uttarakhand draws up plan as Mahakumbh, census clash

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The Economic Times
19th October, 2019 09:40 IST

NEW DELHI: Uttarakhand will draft a blueprint for census 2021 as the process of counting residents will coincide with the Haridwar Mahakumbh that attracts millions of devotees.

The dates of the Mahakumbh, held once in 12 years, will be decided after Diwali at a meeting of the All India Akhada Parishad. Government officials said it usually takes place between January and April. The census exercise will be carried out in most parts, except snow-clad areas, between February 9 and 28 in 2021.

The Uttarakhand census department has informed the Office of the Registrar General of India (ORGI) and the census commissioner that there will be over four million pilgrims in and around Haridwar alone, while the estimated total turnout for the event is 150 million.

“There will be lakhs of health and security personnel who are deputed in the state for over two months. A Kumbh district will be created, which also needs to reflect in our layout plans. In the last few years, there has been a lot of concern around increasing migration. We have to be careful with the population data,” a state government official said.

Sadhus stay put along the river Ganga for weeks before the Kumbh. Enumerating them would be a serious issue. The latest data with the government shows Uttarakhand has 980,293 fakirs, 719,365 yogis and 698,036 mendicants, but there are conflicting numbers given by the ministry of social justice and the Socio-Economic Caste Census-2011, the official said.

ORGI has identified three districts where the population shoots up significantly during the event and is working out a method to enumerate people in Kumbh district alone. ET has learnt that the officials will also talk to the Akhara Parishad for a solution. Besides Pauri Garhwal, the department may intervene in Roorkee, Bhagwanpur, Laksar and Dehradun.

“We are looking at birth and death registrations now and we think that apart from making projections before the exercise begins, we need to do a lot of post-data analysis. Also, we will look at the data of the House Listing and Housing Census that will begin from April 2020,” the official said.

RB Bhagat, who heads the department of migration and urban studies at the International Institute for Population Sciences, said that while under-enumeration might not be much of a challenge, as most pilgrims will be stationed there for only a few days, the enumerators and the census department will have to ensure the data reflects the rate of population growth accurately.

The counting is done in three ways. “From households, from institutions such as hostels, hotels and prisons, and of the homeless. If someone stays in a lodge for over a month, he will be counted. Temporary structures and tents will go under homeless, which is one thing the enumerators will have to remember as many pilgrims, including the sadhus, will not be in formal settlements,” Bhagat said.

The Uttarakhand government has sought a one-time grant of Rs 5,000 crore from the Centre.

“After the success of the Ardh Kumbh in 2016, we are expecting a massive jump in the number of pilgrims,” Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad chief Mahant Mahendra Giri said.

Dinesh K Nauriyal, a professor at IIT Rookee, said the census department should also work with various akhadas to get an idea of the floating population.

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