[Answered] The importance of the decennially conducted census cannot be overstated. The undue delay in the Census’s commencement will severely affect the availability of vital information on the population. Discuss.

Introduction: Contextual introduction.

Body: Explain importance of census. Also write some implications of the delay in census.

Conclusion: Write a way forward.

The census provides information on size, distribution demographic, socio-economic and other characteristics of the country’s population. Since 1949 the census has been conducted by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India under the Ministry of Home Affairs. India’s last census was carried out in 2011 when the country’s population stood at 121 crore.

Importance of census:

  • Essential for state governance: The Census is the basic building block of many instruments of state policythat are essential for ensuring a fair and just division of expenditure across regions and target groups.
  • Supreme over other surveys: Surveys on households, jobs and other items can only complement the Census, not replace it.
  • Important for welfare state: For instance, a recent directive from the Supreme Court regarding the distribution of benefits under the National Food Security Act underlines the centrality of the Census to India’s welfare mechanisms.
  • The Census alone can provide population data for every village and town in the country. Sample surveys can also provide reliable data on social and demographic indicators but only at higher geographic levels.
  • 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. In the case of panchayats and municipal bodies.

Implications of the delay:

  • The Finance Commission allocates funds to States on the basis of Census figures and any delay could put them at a disadvantage.
  • Outdated Census information often becomes unreliable and affects those who do and do not receive the benefits of welfare schemes. E.g. According to the 2011 Census, PDS beneficiaries were approximately 80 crore (67% of the country’s population) but in 2020’s projected population of 137 crore, it should have increased to around 92 crore people.
  • Other sample surveys use the Census data as a list from which a representative sample of the population is selected for surveys. E.g. National Family Health Survey (NFHS).
  • The Census is crucial to determine the population of migrants and migration patterns. The pandemic saw a sea of migrants.
  • Delimitation of parliamentary and Assembly constituencies would also continue to be based on the 2001 Census till data from a Census after 2026 are published.

The government should fast-forward the census collection. This is because the upcoming elections and delimitation of constituencies in 2027 will further delay the census work.

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