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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Avoid further delay in conducting the Census   

 

Source: The Hindu

 

  • Prelims: Census, The Census Act, 1948, NPR, National Register of Citizens (NRC) etc
  • Mains GS Paper I and II: Government policies and interventions for development of various sectors and issues arising out of them etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • The decennial census exercise has been postponed till September.
    • The government informed States that the date of freezing of administrative boundaries has been extended till June 30.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Census:

  • The census provides information on size, distribution and socio-economic, demographic and other characteristics of the country’s population.
  • The Census was first started under British Viceroy Lord Mayo in 1872.
  • It helped in framing new policies, government programs to uplift areas of improvement in the community.
  • The first synchronous census in India was held in 1881.
  • Every ten years: Since then, censuses have been undertaken uninterruptedly once every ten years.

 

Who conducts the census?

  • The responsibility of conducting the decennial Census rests with the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

 

The Census is one of the most credible sources of information on the following:

  • Economic Activity.
  • Literacy and Education.
  • Housing & Household Amenities.
  • Urbanization, Fertility, and Mortality.
  • Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

 

Census in India:

  • India’s first Census was held in 1872, conducted non-synchronously in different parts of the country.
  • After that, India has held its decadal censuses regularly from 1881 to 2011.

 

What does the constitution say about the census?

  • Delimitation: The use of Census data for delimitation of constituencies
  • For determining the quantum of reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • Periodicity of census: It does not say what should be the periodicity of the census.
  • The Census Act, 1948: It provides the legal background for several activities relating to the Census without mentioning anything about its periodicity.
  • It says: “The Central Government may declare its intention of taking a census, whenever it may consider it necessary or desirable to do so, and thereupon the census shall be taken”.

 

Importance of census:

  • The Census can provide population data for every village and town in the country.
  • Sample surveys can provide reliable data on social and demographic indicators only at higher geographic levels.
  • Census has been providing data on population characteristics, housing and amenities.
  • The Census data are used to determine the number of seats to be reserved for SCs and STs in Parliament, State legislatures, local bodies, and government services.

 

Implications of delay:

  • Surveys have limitations and cannot be used to find answers to how many villages have literacy rates below 75% or which tehsils have a low percentage of people getting protected water supply.
  • In case of panchayats and municipal bodies, reservation of seats for SCs and STs is based on their proportion in the population.
    • There is no other source that can provide this information.
  • Delay in the Census means that the data from the 2011 Census would continue to be used.
  • Rapid changes in the composition of the population over the last decade.
    • This means that either too many or too few seats are being reserved.
  • The rural-urban distribution of population has been rapidly changing over the years.
    • For example: Areas under the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike grew by 3(forty nine point three)% during 2001-11 etc
  • The pandemic; It resulted in deaths among adults and the aged relatively more than children.
    • It would give indirect estimates of the number of deaths.

 

Other Importance of Census:

  • Counting: It carries the promise of counting each and every Indian.
  • Connecting state to individual: A census is when the state connects to every individual and it will find it hard to hide or duck from the data.
  • Findings: Finding out age, gender, economic status, religion and languages spoken yields information of another order
  • Planning and resolving problems: It is a treasure trove of findings and providing pathways for planning and resolving problems, and fixing deficiencies.
  • Before Big Data: Well before the term Big Data became commonplace — have provided great amounts of reliable numbers over time.
  • Important metrics: such as the sharp decline in the gender ratio(between the Censuses of 1961 and 1971) alerted Indians to how pre and postnatal factors were reflecting the ‘son bias’ and leading people to murder girls, born and unborn.
  • Preventing bigotry and prejudice: Considering the data-free assertion that India is heading for a population explosion due to Muslim reproductive rates.

 

Way Forward

  • The Census is a single-shot operation: The Central government’s stated stand is that the data for the National Population Register(NPR) would be updated during the Census.
  • Separate census from NPR: It is advisable to separate these two and disassociate the Census from a politically sensitive issue.
    • This would help complete the Census as early as possible and maintain reliability of data.
  • The first Census after 2026: It would be used for delimitation of parliamentary and Assembly constituencies and for apportionment of parliamentary seats among the States.
  • Due to the disparity in growth rates between the States: there could be changes in the distribution of seats in Parliament.
    • That Census is likely to be held in a more politically charged atmosphere.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

Q. Discuss the main objectives of Population Education and point out the measures to achieve them in India in detail.(UPSC 2021) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)