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Hyderabad: The centre may be headed for a showdown with the Telangana government over an intensive survey of 8.4 million households conducted by the administration of India’s youngest state in just a day on Tuesday to map the socio-economic profiles of households in the state.

“Appropriate intervention will be made by the home ministry at an appropriate time, if necessary," a senior home ministry official said in New Delhi, according to PTI, which didn’t identify the person.

The official said the centre is keeping a close eye on the situation arising out of the 12-hour survey, which the Telangana government undertook less than three months after the state was created by bifurcating Andhra Pradesh.

The official cited suspicions among the people of the residuary Andhra Pradesh state—an apparent reference to concerns expressed recently that the data gathered in the survey may be used to exclude people of that state, comprising the regions of coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, from state welfare programmes.

“We hope good sense will prevail and the Telangana government will not do anything that will escalate tension," the home ministry official said.

Tension has surfaced between Telangana and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the centre over a recent central government order conferring special powers on the state governor to deal with law and order in Hyderabad, which has been designated joint capital of the new state and Andhra Pradesh for 10 years. Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to rescind it.

Tuesday’s household survey sought to capture information on households, including educational qualifications, post office savings, bank account details of family members, mobile phone numbers, Aadhaar card numbers, and gas connection details. It sought information on whether families paid taxes, the number of rooms in their houses, the number of houses/plots a family owned, details of agricultural land and livestock, and whether a house was connected to drinking water and electricity networks. It also sought to find out the kind of vehicles the families owned, and if they were air-conditioned.

Rao described the survey as an “eye-opener". For example, it brought to light that there could be upwards of two million households in Hyderabad against the current estimate of 1.5 million. Going by the survey’s findings so far, Rao estimated Telangana’s population to cross 40 million against Census 2011 estimates of 35 million.

“Now that the government has a realistic picture of population, we can address drinking water needs of the city appropriately," Rao said in Telugu. “Everyone will see benefits of the survey in the coming days..."

Some 369,000 government officials fanned out across 10 districts to obtain the information from across the newly formed state, the 12th biggest in the country both in terms of geographical area and population, after the government declared Tuesday a holiday and ordered public and private establishments to shut down.

The Telangana government has argued that the survey, when accomplished, will prevent people from misusing welfare schemes such as the public distribution system for subsidized foodgrain by giving out more than one address for themselves.

To make its case, the Telangana government has pointed out that while there are 8.4 million households in Telangana, according to current data available with the government, 10.7 million ration cards have been issued in the state.

Some experts have questioned the legality of the exercise, saying the state government might not have a lawful mandate to collect such data. While the statutory framework authorizes the centre to undertake such data collection, states do not have similar powers, some experts say.

“There is no statute which authorizes the states to collect information. It clearly impinges on the privacy of citizens. Even the question of asking who is a domicile, which can be relevant for purposes of determining jurisdiction of courts, getting admission in certain education institutions, extending government schemes, is a grey area," former additional solicitor general Indira Jaising said last week.

The high court quashed petitions against the survey last week, and gave its go-ahead to the Telangana government to proceed with the exercise after the latter assured the court that citizens will not be forced to participate in the survey.

Opposition parties feared the information collected from the survey would be used to identify people from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema who have settled in Telangana. Following widespread criticism, the government scratched out three contentious survey questions seeking information on the respondent’s native state, mother tongue, and the length of time a person has been a resident of Telangana.

“From a welfare perspective, this sort of an exercise was overdue," said V. Srinivas Chary, dean of research at Hyderabad-based Administrative Staff College of India. “The question is how they are going to use this data, streamline the data, and make use of the data. They have to clean up the data, organize the data and based on the data, they have to design the schemes and programmes."

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