Rajya Sabha passes statistics amendment bill amid Opposition reservations

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New Delhi, July 26 (IANS) The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the Collection of Statistics (Amendment) Bill, 2017, even as Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad expressed reservations over its timing.

The bill amends the Collection of Statistics Act, 2008, and extends its jurisdiction to Jammu and Kashmir for collection of statistics pertaining to subjects under the Union or Concurrent lists of the Constitution, as applicable to Jammu and Kashmir.

The Lok Sabha has already passed the bill after it was introduced there by the government during the Budget Session.

The 2008 Act facilitates collection of statistics related to social, economic, demographic, scientific, and environmental aspects, by the central, state, and local governments.

It facilitates the appointment of statistics officers to collect information, and contains provisions to ensure security of information.

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The Act provides that information collected under it can be used only for statistical purposes. The bill removes this provision and allows the central government to determine the manner in which such collected information will be used, for statistical purpose.

Members participating in the debate raised concerns about the bill’s implications on Article 370 (which bestows special status on Jammu and Kashmir), privacy, data security, among other things.

Azad, a former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, complained that the government did not take any member of Parliament from the state, including him, senior Nationalist Conference leader Farooq Abdullah or Bharatiya Janata Party coalition partner Peoples Democratic Party, into confidence before introducing the bill.

“We request you to ask the assembly to pass the bill, instead of passing it unilaterally here. A small spark can lead to a big fire — be sensitive and considerate,” Azad said.

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The senior Congress leader asked the Minister to defer reply on the discussion and consider the bill more thoroughly at a time when the Kashmir Valley situation is “returning towards normalcy”.

However, the government went ahead with the bill’s passage, with Statistics and Programme Implementation Minister D.V. Sadanand Gowda saying that its provisions neither override Article 370 nor the state government’s powers.

“Non-availability of data hurts the country’s development, including Jammu and Kashmir,” Gowda said.

He said the Centre had sent a Cabinet note to the state government containing a proposal to amend the law but it did not respond.

As the bill was taken up for passage, Azad once again warned the Union government that “should anything go wrong, the National Democratic Alliance government will be squarely responsible”.

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–IANS

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