QUESTION : Signify the Census of India and it needs a basic overhaul beyond its procedural digitization as there are some issues . Critically analyse  

Census of India and Its Significance
• Population censuses, typically with a semi-decadal (five-year) or decadal frequency are recognised as indispensable to national resource planning.
• The census count uses household survey as the framework for population enumeration in the following year.
• India’s last Census exercise began in 2010 and concluded in 2011.  However, India is yet conduct its latest census. 
• In 1858, the Government of India Act 1858 was passed in the British parliament, that liquidated he East India Company and its authorities were transferred to the British Crown.
• But to administer the dominion, the British government needed detailed, reliable data on the people and where they lived.
• Thus, office of the registrar general and census commissioner launched and completed the first Census of India in 1881. 
• Once the cenus data became available, it found traction among a diverse range of user groups.
o Education departments used the data to plan for primary education.
o Public works departments used it to plan road networks.
o Planners used it to locate electric power plants and trunk lines on the grid.
o Railway systems used it to plan routes.
 The rapid growth of port cities, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, was made possible because major railway systems linked them with the proximate and distant hinterland. 
• The population of India, along with their distribution by age, gender, place of domicile, family structure and education level can be helpful in the covid-19 vaccination process.
• The population is the basis for representation in the next delimitation exercise in 2026.
o If the population is the basis for representation, states with the poorest record of population management, largely in the Hindi belt, will increase their relative presence massively. 
• Finance commissions provide guidance on the distribution of tax revenues between the Union and the states. Population plays a key role in routing revenue.
• The Census can give various statistical measures such as birth and death rates, fertility rates, gross and net birth rates, etc. to showcase the factual data against arguments made by majoritarian politicians.
o Many arguments made by majoritarian politicians are about what they allege to be a shrinking majority and explosive growth of minorities.
• Cenus gives planners a sense of who benefits from the major infrastructure projects in India and at what cost.
o Examples: Is bullet train from Ahmedabad to Mumbai worth?, How will farmers make adequate returns on their produce?
 What is the best welfare model and how should it be targeted? etc.
• Given the centrality of television in the public sphere and its impact on politics, the population data is important for Broadcasting Audience Research Council (BARC) as those data needs to be accurate in order to produce correct BARC ratings.
o BARC gathers data (such as do rural viewers outnumber urban viewers) based on a continuously monitored viewing panel, then projected to the population based on the Census. 
(1) Data quality issues –
• The past four decades have seen a decline in the quality of data and growing delays in its release despite technological innovations.
• The use of census data in delimitation and federal redistribution has been questioned on grounds of poor quality, while the Covid-19 pandemic revealed the obsolete and poor quality of data on internal migration.
(2) No major reforms –
• The legal foundation of the census has remained largely unchanged since newly independent India enacted permanent census legislation in 1948.
• Despite sustained problems, the census has not seen any major reform after 1994 when both the Census Act, 1948 and Census Rules, 1990 were amended.
(3) Old methods and questionnaire –
• The methodological core – extended de facto (synchronous) canvasser-based enumeration – too has remained intact even though the length and layout of schedules changed quite a bit.
• The Household Schedule, for instance, grew with the footprint of the state, from 14 questions in 1951 to 29 questions in 2011.
(4) Workforce issues –
• Data collection has not kept pace with improvements in data processing technology due to the lack of motivated and adequately trained enumerators.
• Given the high salaries of school teachers, the modest honorarium paid for census work does not cover the opportunity cost of conducting the door-to-door enumeration.
Reforms should begin with the design of schedules based on a clear understanding of two essential functions of the census:
(a) Resource allocations
• First, census facilitates the rule-based distribution of power and resources through constitutionally mandated redistribution of taxes, delimitation of electoral constituencies and affirmative action policies.
• It is also used in routine policy-making across tiers of government.
(b) Population projections
• Second, census serves as the sampling frame for surveys and is also the basis of population projections.
• Other routine policies require distribution of the headcount by households, marital status, age, sex, literacy, migrant status, and mother tongue.
• Put together, these variables are sufficient for choosing representative samples for surveys. 
• The census involves a detailed questionnaire. In the 2011 Census, there were 29 items to be filled up aimed at eliciting the particulars of every person, including age, sex, marital status, children, occupation, birthplace, mother tongue, religion, disability, and whether they belonged to any Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.
• On the other hand, the NPR collects basic demographic data and biometric particulars.
• The census is legally backed by the Census Act,1948. The NPR is a mechanism outlined in a set of rules framed under the Citizenship Act,1955. 
Census is the basis for reviewing the country’s progress in the past decade, monitoring the ongoing Schemes of the Government and most importantly, planning for the future. That is why the Slogan is “Our Census – Our Future”.

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