Numbers as Political Allies analyses censuses of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) as public goods, collective self-portraits and symbols of modernity and enriches the debates on the political economy of statistics in developing countries. Using field interviews, archival resources and secondary data, the book tracks how censuses relate to their administrative, legal and political–economic contexts and captures their entire life cycle: from the political and administrative maneuvering at the preparatory stage to the partisan use of data in policymaking and public debates. It discusses priors that shape the government’s choices vis-à-vis collection and evaluation of census statistics. It examines the quality of the data of the last two censuses of J&K and shows that coverage errors associated with the abnormal changes in child population statistics reported in 2011 were unevenly distributed between sexes and regions of the erstwhile state. It also examines content errors in the data on languages and tribes.
The book argues that J&K’s data deficit is shaped by, and shapes, ethno-regional, communal and scalar contests across different levels of governance, but the deteriorating quality of metadata limits our ability to evaluate the quality of census data. Further, comparing the experience of J&K with that of other states located in India’s landlocked ethno-geographic periphery, the book suggests that stricter laws and technological interventions cannot address the problem of data deficit insofar as it is intertwined with democracy and development deficits and suggests possible measures to enhance public trust in the census.
Kumar, Vikas. 2023. Numbers as Political Allies: The Census in Jammu and Kashmir. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.