Development | VOL. 12, ISSUE 74, September-October 2012

Census of India – A Critique

Modern Census-taking in India started in 1872, has an unbroken record of population count every ten years, and the 2011 Census of India is the fifteenth in the series. Census of India has been providing very important and useful information on various demographic, social and economic aspects of the Indian society along with its living conditions and is marked by several milestones since its inception. The 1961 Census introduced a houselist schedule; it changed the concept of ‘economic activity’ from ‘income’ to ‘work’ approach and it decided to collect migration data down to each administrative unit rather than limiting it to district level as was done until the 1951 Census. These changes made a significant difference in the understanding of Indian realities. Since then every Census of India has introduced new questions and new formats. The 2011 Census of India too has also been unique in several ways. It canvassed a new schedule termed National Population Register (NPR) to collect data on every citizen in India to introduce unique identity numbers (UID). Instead of asking for ‘age at last birthday,’ data has been collected on exact ‘date of birth’ both in NPR and in the population Census. Interestingly, the question on ‘nationality’ was specifically canvassed in NPR, while it was not included in the population Census questionnaire after 1961. The earlier ‘houselist schedule’ has been expanded...

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