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ALL INDIA RADIO (AIR) DISCUSSION : CENSUS 2021

The Topic covers GS paper 2[Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora.]

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Context

  • The next census of India to be conducted in 2021 with March 1, 2021 as the reference date, except for the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
  • The Census 2021 will be conducted in 18 languages out of the 22 scheduled languages (under 8th schedule) and English, while Census 2011 was in 16 of the 18 scheduled languages declared at that time.

What is the background?

  • It also will introduce a code directory to streamline the process.
  • The option of “Other” under the gender category will be changed to “Third Gender”.
  • There were roughly 5 lakh people under "other" category in 2011.
  • For the first time in the 140 year history of census in India, data is proposed to be collected through a mobile app by enumerators and they will receive an additional payment as an incentive.
  • The Census data would be available by the year 2024-25 as the entire process would be conducted digitally and data crunching would be quicker.
  • Data from the Census 2011 is still being released. E.g.: The dataset on migration was published recently.

What is the issue of caste data collection?

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  • Earlier in 2018, the Ministry of Home Affairs had declared that the Other Backward Class (OBC) category would be included in the Census 2021.
  • However, the Registrar-General of India (RGI) has said that only SC/ST will be included as the unreliable nature of caste data collection decreases the credibility of the results. E.g.: A person belonging to the Yadav caste writes Yadu, Yaduvanshi, etc. in the form; there is no standardisation. People sometimes even confuse caste with gotra.
  • The 2011 caste data, collected as part of the Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC), is yet to be released by the Centre.
  • Even a committee formed under former vice-chairman of NITI Aayog, Arvind Panagariya to find a way to publish the 2011 Socio-economic and Caste Census data failed to provide any tangible outcome.
  • The last caste-based census was conducted by the British in 1931.

What is the History of Census in India?

  • The census provides information on size, distribution and socio-economic, demographic and other characteristics of the country's population.
  • 'Rig-Veda' reveals that some kind of population count was maintained during 800-600 BC in India.
  • Arthashastr by 'Kautilya' written in the 3rd Century BC prescribed the collection of population statistics as a measure of state policy for taxation.
  • During the regime of the Mughal king Akbar, the administrative report 'Ain-e-Akbari' included comprehensive data pertaining to population, industry, wealth and many other characteristics.

What is National Population Register?

  • The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country. 
  • The database would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars.
  • It is being prepared at the local (Village/sub-Town), sub-District, District, State and National level under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  • It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR.
  • A usual resident is defined for the purposes of NPR as a person who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.

What is the utility of census?

  • Census data helps in future planning of the country, especially for development initiatives and welfare schemes.
  • The population census provides the basic data for administrative purposes. 
  • One of the most basic of the administrative uses of census data is in the demarcation of constituencies and the allocation of representation on governing bodies.
  • The population census provides indispensable data for scientific analysis and appraisal of the composition, distribution and past and prospective growth of the population. 
  • The census data has many important uses for individuals and institutions in business and industry.

What are the features of Digital census 2021?

  • As all previous censuses in India have been paper-based. 
  • A mobile app will be used in Census 2021. It will be a transformation from paper census to digital census.
  • The 2021 census is the 16th Indian census.
  • The government was set to spend Rs.12,000 crore on the 2021 Census as well as for the preparation of the National Population Register (NPR).
  • This mammoth nationwide exercise will be carried out in 16 languages.
  • The census will have its reference date as March 1, 2021, but for snow-bound Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand it will be October 1, 2020.

What are the advantages of a digital/paperless census?

  • A paperless census will drastically reduce the storage space for physical files.
  • As all data will be stored electronically, the government will save up on substantial amount of physical storage space.
  • Digital census will reduce the environmental burden by saving the trees required for paper manufacturing industries.
  • The use of technology in census will also help pave the way for other technologies, such as artificial intelligence and Internet of Things, to take root in India.
  • It will also help cut the project cost of census.
  • As the records mentioned on pages could easily be tempered now going digitally, any tampering with the data will invite punishment under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

What are the disadvantages?

  • Digital data is more prone to the piracy. 
  • The data collected digitally can be used by various private agencies for personal use if breached.
  • There will be serious security concerns if the breached data be used by our enemy countries.
  • It would be difficult to register digitally for people who are digitally illiterate.

Conclusion

A systematic and modern population census, in its present form was conducted non synchronously between 1865 and 1872 in different parts of the country. However, the first synchronous census in India was held in 1881. Since then, censuses have been undertaken uninterruptedly once every ten years. India's last census was carried out in 2011 when the country's population stood at 121 crore. The Indian Census is one of the largest administrative exercises undertaken in the world.