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About The Census in India


The Census enumeration scheduled to take place in 2021 has been pushed to 2024-25 until further orders. With this, the exercise related to National Population Register (NPR) would also get delayed. NPR is to be updated with the first phase of Census 2021.


GS I: Population and Related issues

Dimensions  of the Article:

  1. About the Census
  2. Key facts about India’s census
  3. Significance of census:
  4. What are implications of the delay?
  5. National Population Register (NPR)

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.

Significance of census:

  • Foundation of Statistical Analyses: A census generates primary and authentic data that forms the foundation for various statistical analyses. This data is crucial for planning, decision-making, and development initiatives across sectors like administration, economy, and social welfare.
  • Planning and Development: Census data provides essential information for planning and development initiatives in various sectors. It helps policymakers, government agencies, and organizations to understand demographic patterns, population trends, and distribution of resources, enabling them to formulate effective strategies and allocate resources efficiently.
  • Constituency Delimitation and Representation: Census data plays a vital role in demarcating constituencies and determining representation in government bodies. It helps in deciding the number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in Parliament, State legislatures, local bodies, and government services. This ensures proportional representation and promotes inclusivity in the political and administrative systems.
  • Business and Industry Planning: Census data is valuable for business houses and industries as it helps them strengthen and plan their operations, especially for expanding into areas that were previously underserved. The data provides insights into population characteristics, consumer demographics, and market potential, facilitating business decisions and market penetration strategies.
  • Grants and Resource Allocation: The Finance Commission utilizes population figures from census data to provide grants to states. The allocation of resources, funding, and development assistance is often based on the population data available from the census.

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.

National Population Register (NPR):

  • The NPR is a register that includes the details of usual residents of India.
  • It is mandatory for every usual resident to register in the NPR.
  • A usual resident is defined as someone who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more, or intends to reside there for the next 6 months or more.
  • It encompasses both Indian citizens and foreign citizens.
  • The NPR aims to create a comprehensive identity database of all usual residents in the country.
  • It serves as a basis for various government schemes and initiatives.
History and Updates:
  • The first National Population Register was prepared in 2010, and data was updated in 2015 through a door-to-door survey.
  • The next update of the NPR was planned to be conducted along with the Census 2021.
  • However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the NPR updation and related field activities were postponed.
Authority and Legal Basis:
  • The NPR is conducted by the Office of the Registrar General of India (RGI), which operates under the Home Ministry.
  • It is prepared under Rule 3 of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  • These rules were framed under the Citizenship Act, 1955.
Distinction from National Register of Citizens (NRC):

The NPR should not be confused with the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

  • The NRC is a register that specifically lists details of Indian citizens, excluding foreign citizens.
  • The NRC’s purpose is to identify Indian citizens living in India and outside.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023