A census is not about counting sheep – on Issues related to census

Source: The post is based on the article “A census is not about counting sheep” published in The Hindu on 23rd September 2022.

Syllabus: GS 1- Population and associated issues

Context: Census is a very important exercise for a democratic country. Considering its importance, the timely organization and completion of the census must be a priority for the government.

India’s first Census was held in 1872. After that India has held its decadal censuses regularly from 1881 to 2011, despite any circumstances.

The recent census was to be held in the year 2021 but it was postponed due to pandemic and there are no explanations that when this census will be held.

What is census?

A census is storage of complete data about the country which is gathered openly, voluntarily, and with the use of public money, making it a social good.

Census counts each and every citizen, along with their certain data (age, religion, gender, etc.). This helps in connecting the nation with the people.

Census also provides ways to nation to fix and resolve the problems of its people and it also has many more advantages.

What are the advantages of census?

General Census

The census is vital and precious. It is a repository of complete data about the country which is gathered openly, voluntarily, and with the use of public money, making it a social good. It provides important information to the government on various social and economic parameters.

For example, Censuses of 1961 and 1971 highlighted the sharp decline in the gender ratio in India. It alerted how pre and post-natal factors were reflecting the ‘son bias’ and leading people to murder girls, born and unborn.

Also, the census in US in 1850 and 1860, showed the number of enslaved people in the U.S. to be rising. It strengthened the anti-slavery campaign ongoing there.

Census has also helped in clearing wrong assumptions and information. It was believed that population is increasing due to high reproductive rates in Muslims.

But census has provided that the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in Muslims is coming down and is on its way to stabilisation. The fall in TFR among Muslims is faster than in any community.

The 2011 Census also provided difference in divorce rate between city and rural India. The urban divorce rate (0.89%) is almost equal to the rural rate (0.82%).

Caste census

Caste census has been useful in providing identities of the people related to the caste. India had its last caste census in 1931.

A caste census was conducted after the general census of 2011 but it was not published due to socio-economic reasons.

What have been issues with the recent measures of counting of the people?

First, during pandemic while election rallies were allowed, the census practice was postponed.

Second, there is a negative feeling about the census among a few sections of the population. It is due to coupling the National Register of Citizens (NRC) with National Population Register (NPR), in few official government statements. It saw protests from the people.

These all complex issues created a lack of trust in the government by the people.

Third, the ability to hold a census peacefully has been the hallmark of a civilized state and state of affairs. Democratic Republic of the Congo was able to conclude its census recently, peacefully.

Fourth, Whereas, the countries like Afghanistan (1979), Lebanon (1932), Somalia (1985), Uzbekistan (1989), and the Western Sahara (1970) are the ones that failed to conduct a census since 1990. India surely won’t like to join the list of such countries.

Fifth, the government is enforcing the laws that are making it easy to collect citizen’s data. For example;

The Ministry of Home Affairs has just notified the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Rules, 2022. It provides for the procedure for taking body measurements to collect biological samples, retina scans, biometrics, etc.

A law now allows electoral rolls to be linked with Aadhaar.

There is a delay in enforcing data protection law for citizens

Thus, it should not be a problem in holding the census which displays its desire to connect with the people who ultimately comprise the nation.

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