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|March 30, 2000|
AIA Appeals to Indian Community to Join Census Drive
J M Shenoy
Asserting that numbers carry clout, the Association of Indians in America is joining like-minded ethnic groups to appeal to Indians in America to fill in the census forms. AIA appeal is sent to its members, who in turn will get in touch with other Indians and urge them to be counted. Appeals to fill the forms are being made at temples, churches and mosques. The Census 2000 has spent over $170 million to raise consciousness about the Census and assure that individual data will be kept a secret.
"Participation in Census 2000 is not only a civic duty but also an empowering of the community," says Piyush C Agrawal, the national president of AIA and an advisor to Census 2000. Census volunteers will begin visiting homes in April to gather information from the non-responsive residents. The filled in forms are to reach census offices by the second week of April.
Agrawal asserted that whether one is a green card holder or a citizen or an illegal alien, it is imperative that he or she is counted. The federal government decides, after looking at the numbers, how $182 billion will be distributed for school funding, highway construction, housing assistance, and hospital services.
''The census is in the hands of the American people,'' Census Bureau director Kenneth Prewitt observed last week, hoping that at least 70 per cent of the households will respond. In the last census, about 60 per cent of the population responded.
Census numbers are used to draw the election districts. If there is an undercount, a particular state will have less number of representatives in the Congress.
It is unlawful for census officials to pass on information about illegal aliens to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Agrawal reminded.
There are two types of census forms: short and long one. About 17 percent of the population will receive the long form, which takes about 30 minutes to fill in.
Agrawal said an informal survey of the Indian American community showed that many were reluctant to fill in the long survey because it asks many questions about income and family assets. Besides, it takes some time to fill it.
"No census information from individuals will be passed on to the Internal Revenue Service," Agrawal said quoting from government directives.
AIA is also appealing that all people of Asian Indian ancestry, whether they are from Singapore or Fiji or India or were born in America, should fill the Asian Indian category.
"There are about 1.3 million Indian Americans. If people of Indian origin from the Caribbean, South Africa, Far East, Suriname or Sri Lanka tick the Asian Indian category we could be more than 1.7 million people. And that is not an insignificant number at all," Agrawal says.
By the third week of March about forty-two percent of US households returned their 2000 Census forms, the Census Bureau says.
"It just shows that many people are not taking the implications of the census count seriously," Agrawal says. Our community can take the lead in raising the awareness and also in filling in the forms. We won't get an opportunity like this for another 10 years."
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