The delay in the decennial Census

Source: The post is based on the article “The delay in the decennial Census” published in The Hindu on 10th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS 1 – Population and associated issues.

Relevance: About the implications of the delaying census.

News: The decennial Census exercise has been postponed till September 2023. Except for the 2021 census, none of the previous exercises has been delayed.

What is the Census?

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What does the Constitution say about the Census?

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How is the Census conducted?

The decennial census is carried out by lakhs of enumerators empanelled and trained by the government in two phases.

First phase: It is the housing Census, where data on housing conditions, household amenities and assets possessed by households are collected.

Second phase: In this phase, data on population, education, religion, economic activity, Scheduled Castes and Tribes etc are collected.

What are the implications of the delaying census?

Census data is crucial for various administrative functions, welfare schemes, and other surveys. The implications of the delaying census are,

Firstly, outdated Census information (available from the last Census in 2011) often becomes unreliable and affects those who do and do not receive the benefits of welfare schemes. For instance,

As per the National Food Security Act, 2013, 67% of the country’s population (approximately 80 crore in 2011) is entitled to receive subsidised food grains from the government under the targeted public distribution system (PDS). Over the last decade means that if the 67% ratio is applied to 2020’s projected population of 137 crore, PDS coverage should have increased to around 92 crore people.

Secondly, census data are critical for other sample surveys conducted in the country as they use the Census data as a ‘frame’ or list from which a representative sample of the population is selected for surveys. For instance, for the latest edition of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) released last year, it was the 2011 data that served as the sampling frame.

Thirdly, census is crucial to determine the population of migrants and migration patterns. Despite the large-scale migration during the pandemic, the only data available from the government was from 2011, which could not answer queries on the numbers, causes and patterns of migration.


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