• The importance of the decennially conducted Census cannot be overstated. As it tallies data on several features of the Indian population, such as basic demography, literacy levels, caste status, educational levels, spoken languages, religion, marital status, occupation, and migration status among others, the Census is vital to administrative functions and planning of welfare schemes.
  • Census data are also critical as they are used as a frame to underpin other sample surveys that are representative of the whole population. The national Census is utilised by international agencies to project the world’s population as well.
  • India has conducted the Census every 10 years since 1881; only 2021, a pandemic-affected year, was an exception as the exercise was postponed.
  • With the deadline for freezing of boundaries further extended to June 30, 2023, the Census can effectively be conducted only some months after this event. Census enumeration is preceded by activities such as house-listing.
  • Most States were in line to begin this in early 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. But the repeated postponement and, consequently, the undue delay in the Census’s commencement will severely affect the availability of vital information on population numbers at district and other lower levels.
  • The pandemic has been cited as a reason for the delay. The fact that lockdowns and physical distancing norms are now a thing of the past and infection levels in the country have remained relatively low ever since the last Omicron variant wave happened in early 2022 suggests that this is no longer a valid excuse.
  • In fact, Census data should validate the various estimates on mortality based on ‘excess deaths’ analyses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Also, it is imperative that decadal changes in India’s demography related to urbanisation and migration of people across States are captured adequately.
  • Welfare schemes such as the targeted Public Distribution System under the National Food Security Act depend on population estimates, and the government continues to rely on Census 2011, which is now clearly outdated.
  • Inter-State disparities in population growth rates could also impinge upon debates on the prospective delimitation of electoral boundaries and apportioning of seats across States. Considering these and other imperatives for the smooth planning and implementation of administrative, welfare and statistical management for governance, the Union government must show alacrity in commencing the Census.


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