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The Missing Census
News: While there is no legal requirement that the Census be held every 10 years, its sheer utility had so far ensured it was a regular exercise. The current delay can have wide-ranging consequences.
The Census exercise should have been carried out in 2021 but was delayed due to Covid-19 pandemic.
What is a Census?
A Census is Constitutionally mandated in India. There are repeated references to the Census exercise in the Constitution in the context of reorganisation of constituencies for Parliament and state Assemblies.
But the Constitution does not say when the Census has to be carried out, or what the frequency of this exercise should be.
The Census of India Act of 1948, which provides the legal framework for carrying out the Census, also does not mention its timing or periodicity.
Importance of Census
The Census produces primary, authentic data that becomes the backbone of every statistical enterprise, informing all planning, administrative and economic decision-making processes.
It is the basis on which every social, economic and other indicator is built.
Lack of reliable data – 12-year-old data on a constantly changing metric is not reliable – has the potential to upset every indicator on India, and affect the efficacy and efficiency of all kinds of developmental initiatives.
Census data serves as the foundation for statistical systems and surveys.
Conducting regular censuses allows for comparisons and analysis of demographic changes, societal trends, and historical patterns over time.
What are advantages of having accurate Population Census Data?
It helps the researchers and policy makers in policy planning and decision making.
Census data helps in the equitable distribution of resources and services based on population size and demographic characteristics. For example, how much allocation is needed towards education, rural infrastructure etc.
It helps researchers study demographic trends, migration patterns, socio-economic indicators.
The data helps in determining the number of seats and boundaries for electoral constituencies.
They help to monitory fertility rates, mortality rates, health indicators amongst children and women, change in population growth etc.
What are challenges with collecting Population census data?
Collection of data in a country as big as India with diverse population is a challenge in itself.
Lack of awareness about benefits of Census data is a limitation factor in data collection.
Language diversity and cultural variations pose challenges in effectively communicating and collecting data from diverse linguistic and cultural groups.
Ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of respondents’ information is crucial to gain their trust and cooperation.
Rapid urbanization and migration adds to the task of data collection.
Inadequate technological infrastructure, limited access to digital devices, and connectivity issues can hinder the adoption of digital data collection methods.
The pandemic and subsequent delay in conducting Census exercise should be seen as an opportunity to reexamine the instruments for carrying out the population Census through innovation and new initiatives using technology.
The government should prioritize and expedite the start of the Census and at the same time launch awareness campaigns and community outreach programs to educate public about importance of census exercise and put to bed the rumours surrounding it.