A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. The UN describes Census as ‘…the total process of collecting, compiling and publishing demographic, economic and social data pertaining, at a specified time or times to all persons in a country or delimited territory.’
Census is a mammoth (essential) task, which has to be conducted by every country to study and chart out future policies for welfare of its population. Importance of census has been mentioned in ‘Arthashastra’ of Chanakya and the Bible. Evidence of census in ancient times, as far back as 3000 years BC, have been found in parts of China, Egypt and Babylon. In those days census were mainly conducted for purpose like taxation or recruitment in the army. As countries and governments became more organized and bigger, census has become more exhaustive, throwing light on almost every aspect of the social and economic status of a country’s population.
The first synchronous census was taken in 1881 in India. Thereafter Census has been taken every 10 years without break. Census 2011 will be the 15th consecutive Census of India.
Importance of Census Data
Population Census is the primary source of basic national population data required for administrative purposes and for many aspects of economic and social research and planning. Censuses are conducted at regular intervals to get comparable information in a fixed sequence.
1. Social Utility- The Census data brings forth the social and living conditions of people of various region, religion, community, gender, age, educational status etc. Data like sex ratio, education level and income, fertility rate, mortality rate, ratio of working women and men, number of disabled persons, indicate towards inherent causes like prevalent
customs, availability or non availability of certain basic facilities like schools, hospitals etc. This helps in formulating welfare policies based on region, community, income group etc. The query about the number and type of disabled person in a household has been moved up the questionnaire to raise its importance. This has been done to asses the needs for special public facilities for the disabled. The third gender has also been included in the 2011 census, which can help in formulating laws for their different needs.
2. Economic planning- Economic planning of the country needs to judiciously allocate the nation’s fund towards the growth and welfare of various social and economic sectors. The Census data provides information like the least developed or most poor region or community in the country, demanding more practical and financial attention from the government. Data on income, expenditure, employment rate and types, trends in migration, urbanization etc. help determine the infrastructure requirements (housing, food, health, electricity, road development etc.) of different areas and also the tax policies. Data on economic activity and education levels are important for manpower planning.
3. Administrative policies- Regional figures are required to determine regional policies. The listing of population and houses reports all the old and newly developed colonies/areas in a region. This helps in demarcation of constituencies. The geographic distribution of population determines the allocation of representation of governing bodies.
4. Importance for business and industries- Estimates of population density, consumer demand for various goods and services, distribution of age, sex, economic status of an area, availability of labour etc. help in business decisions.
5. Utility for research purpose- Census data forms the basis for several social and economic researches like trends of urban and rural development, causes and alleviation of poverty, causes and trends of migration, status of different languages, relation between various communities’ education, income and standard of living etc. Census provides data for scientific analysis of past and prospective growth of the population. Selection of sample for surveys is made from the census, as it is the most exhaustive collection of data covering each and every part of the country.
Firsts in 2011 Census of India
The Census will for the first time record data of eunuch/transgender, count ‘separated’ and ‘divorced’ separately, categorize prostitutes under ‘other’ in place of ‘beggar’ in last census and introduce more type of disabilities. It will also count ‘illegal immigrants’ without asking their nationality. Other new features included in Census 2011 are, status of school attendance, data on non-economic activity, persons with unidentified source of income and migration. Data like ownership of cell phones, computers, internet, drinking water (treated or untreated) facility and usage of banking services. Photograph, fingerprint and iris scan will also be collected from residents above the age of five.
(Reference- Official website of The Registrar General & Census Commission, Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India, and The Times of India, New Delhi edition (Thursday, February 03, 2011).