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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Avoid further delay in conducting the Census                  

Source: Indian Express


  • 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



  • India aspires to be a $10 trillion economy by 2035.
    • To achieve this, conducting population Census, due in 2021, postponed, is necessary.





  • 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 data:

  • It is essential for planning at the village or block level to usher in economic and social development
  • Governance: Ensure better governance
  • Increase the transparency of public schemes and programmes.


Challenge faced by  demographers, planners, and other stakeholders:

  • How to estimate the district population.
    • The district is the basic administrative unit for governing, planning, and executing government projects and schemes.


Reasons why conducting a Census is a prerequisite for economic development:

  • In the absence of updated Census data, demographers estimate the annual population count at the district level using past Census information for the intercensal or postcensal period.
    • Demographic exercises give reasonably fair estimates when the year of population estimation is within the range of a maximum of 10 years. Beyond this period, estimations can be erroneous.
  • Many districts of India are experiencing a faster demographic transition with varying fertility and mortality rates.
    • Using the growth rate of 2001-2011 for the period after 2021 becomes more of an assumption-based model than a model that reflects empirical reality.
  • Covid-19 further makes the situation complex: It impacts the fertility and mortality situation in the country.
  • Many states (and districts) lack a complete civil registration system with a full count of birth and death data, and demographers face enormous challenges in providing population counts at the district level.
  • Migration data collected in the Census has great implications for economic activities and social harmony.
    • The pattern of migration within the country, within states as well as outside the country has been changing in unprecedented ways.
    • The migration pattern in India in the present decade is very different from what the data in Census 2001 and 2011.
  • The Census counts everyone across regions, classes, creeds, religions, languages, castes, marital status, differently-abled populations, occupation patterns etc.
    • Most national-level surveys such as NFHS and NSSO do not have representative data at the population subgroup level, unlike the Census.


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.


Way Forward

  • The existence of numerous faiths and languages as well as the expansion or extinction of such communities will be known only via population Census.
  • A regular Census at the national and sub-national levels has been a matter of pride for India.
    • It has to be continued until India achieves a fool-proof civil registration system and a dynamic National Population Register.
  • Census is necessary since it forms the basis of all the plans and programmes that the government wants to implement.
    • Postponing the Census has immediate and long-term negative consequences for India.
  • 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.



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)