Avoid further delay in conducting the Census

Source: The post is based on the article “Avoid further delay in conducting the Census” published in The Hindu on 8th January 2023

What is the News?

The decennial Census exercise has been postponed till September 2023.

What is the Census?

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What does the Constitution say about the Census?

The Constitution talks about the use of Census data for the delimitation of constituencies and for determining the quantum of reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. However, it does not say what should be the periodicity of the census. 

The Census Act,1948 which predates the Constitution 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”.

This provision puts the onus of deciding when to conduct a Census on the executive. This is unlike the position in several countries such as the U.S. and Japan where the Constitution or the Census law mandates a Census with defined periodicity.

What are the implications of delaying the census?

Firstly, 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.

Secondly, 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, the reservation of seats for SCs and STs is based on their proportion in the population. 

– Delay in the Census means that the data from the 2011 Census would continue to be used. In many towns and even panchayats that have seen rapid changes in the composition of their population over the last decade, this would mean that either too many or too few seats are being reserved. 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.

What is the controversy around the census?

The decision to collect data for the National Population Register by piggybacking on the Census operations was the most debated issue before the Census was postponed. Such controversies negatively impact the Census.

Hence, it would be 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 the reliability of data.


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