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About Decennial Census


The decennial Census of 2021 has been pushed forward yet again and is unlikely to start till September 2023, at least.


GS I: Population and Related issues

Dimensions  of the Article:

  1. About the Census
  2. Key facts about India’s census
  3. What are implications of the delay?

About the Census

  • The census provides information on size, distribution and socio-economic, demographic and other characteristics of the country’s population.
  • The first synchronous census in India was held in 1881, and since then, censuses have been undertaken uninterruptedly once every ten years.
  • India’s last census was carried out in 2011 when the country’s population stood at 121 crores.
  • The Census 2021 will be conducted in 18 languages out of the 22 scheduled languages (under 8th schedule) and English, and the option of “Other” under the gender category will be changed to “Third Gender”.
  • For the first time data is proposed to be collected through a mobile app by enumerators and they will receive an additional payment as an incentive.
  • The last caste-based census was conducted by the British in 1931.
  • Arthashastra by ‘Kautilya’ written in the 3rd Century BC prescribed the collection of population statistics as a measure of state policy for taxation.
  • In India, a census is conducted every decade and Census 2021 will be the 16th national census of the country.

Key facts about India’s census

  • In India, the census was first started under British Viceroy Lord Mayo in 1872 and the first synchronous census in India was held in 1881. 
  • It is being conducted at an interval of 10 years. 
  • The decennial Census is conducted by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • Census is conducted under the provisions of the Census Act, of 1948.
  • The population census is a Union subject under Article 246 of the Indian Constitution.
  • It is listed as serial number 69 of the seventh schedule of the constitution.

What are implications of the delay?

  • The Census data is important for various administrative functions, welfare schemes, and other surveys.
  • The Finance Commission uses Census figures to allocate funds to states, and a delay could put them at a disadvantage.
  • Outdated Census data (such as the data from the 2011 Census) can become unreliable and affect those who do and do not receive the benefits of welfare schemes.
  • Census data is also used as a “frame” or list for selecting representative samples for other sample surveys conducted in the country.
  • The Census is crucial for determining the population of migrants and migration patterns.
  • The National Population Register (NPR) exercise, which was to happen with the first phase of the Census, should now be delinked due to its politically sensitive nature and the urgency of the Census, according to former bureaucrats.

-Source: The Hindu

November 2023