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Census 2001: Will The Effort Be Fruitful?
Census Data Incorrect

Census 2001 is on its way, and the Census department of India is planning for a new exercise for better results this time. An additional questionnaire will be included apart from the conventional population count, which will reduce information from the people on varied issues pasturing from housing and transportation to the availability of drinking water and fuel, and primarily, the status of the elderly persons in the society. The major area of focus, this time, is the availability of means of mass communications and public transportation system, which reflects technical advancement in the country.

Total cost estimated to be Rs. 1,000 crore, the total process includes printing cost of 250 million questionnaire and consumption of 10,000 tons of paper. It will be the world’s largest ever-administrative exertion, according to Dr. M. Vijayanunni, Census Commissioner of India. According to him, the process is very comprehensive and much cheaper as compared to the U.S. census.

The questionnaire, indeed is an exemplar of technological advancement, but a question arises, do we really need to invest such a huge amount and project this exercise on such a large scale, as questions are being raised about the authenticity of the present database available with the Census bureau. As claimed by the Delhi Police, analysis of the number of voters registered with the Delhi Election Commission shows an increase in the number from 61 lakh in 1991 to 84 lakh in 1998 elections; which indicates an increase of 23 lakh people in the population of those over the age of 18. And as per the census figure of 1991, the population of Delhi was 93.70 lakh and the projected population figure for 1998 was120.34 lakh indicating an increase of 26.64 lakh in all age groups. And according to Mr. V. N. Singh, Commissioner of Police, Delhi has an average floating population of about 10 to 12 lakh people per day. If compared together, we will find that the ratio of increase in people above 18 and that of all age groups is not justifying.

Thus, this is a serious matter if the next Census is completely based upon the records present with the bureau.

With all the efforts of so many people in collecting data, all the expenses, and the time taken for the long procedures, Census 2001, too, one day will be proved worthless if the reliability aspect of the whole exercise is not reviewed.

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U.S. Census 2000

The Census Department of U. S. is also ready for its next count; they too including two sets of results this time, one based on statistical sampling, and another based on standard head count. Projected to be done in the period April-December next year, the study is surely going to produce the best numbers possible, even though their best possible application is yet to be decided. The second set, which is based on statistical sampling, is being considered to be more accurate than the first one. According to Mr. Kenneth Prewitt, Director, Census Bureau, USA, Census 2000 will be conducted without sampling in consent with the recent Supreme Court decision which has banned the use of sampling for political reapportionment. According to him, the Census Bureau aims to produce best numbers possible, and not to decide how they will be used and the sampling controversy has led the Bureau to opt for statistical sampling. However, this ‘two-number census’ will consecutively be more accurate and more complete.

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Atlas of Indian Women and Men
Stark pictures portray women condition

Any attempt to understand the status of women based on census data in India may not necessarily be a fruitful exercise as some of heads of the family in Hindi speaking region do not include the number of their daughters while mentioning the number of children to census authorities. In Hindi heartland, girls are considered as person of in her ‘would be’ in-laws family. Not only that, a woman working in her husband’s agricultural field is not mentioned as a working woman. Head of the family is always a man, it may be different story that it may be a woman who is running the home. To understand the condition of Indian women, “Atlas of Women and Men” may be useful as for the first time the information mentioned in various columns of census are displayed in maps. Every map displays the agony of inequality between men and women. Four educationists Saraswati Raju, Peter J. Atkins, Naresh Kumar and Janet G. Townsend have been involved in developing these maps, based on factors such as literacy, education, voting patterns, cultural groupings, fertility rates, workforce participation, etc. The information is based on 1991 census data. This atlas will surely help policy makers in developing programmes for the welfare of Indian women because every map provide the status of Indian women in different areas.

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The age of religion census in India

The “Census” of Christians brought out by the intelligence wing of Gujarat State Police is another chagrin issue which is about the circular seeking information about the Christians, their residence, ‘criminal records’, arms and vehicles as well as details about funds received by them. A notice has been issued to the State Government by the Gujarat High Court questioning the correctness, legality and constitutional validity of such a circular singling out a community for such a survey. The State Government has been questioned whether the survey of Christians has not violated the right of equality under Article 14 of the Constitution. It is also being doubted if the census adhered to the preamble of the Constitution in securing liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. The minorities of Andaman island are facing a similar discrimination; the Census Bureau is questioning the Christian, Muslim and Sikh individuals as well as organisations about their professional identity, nationality, academic qualifications, sources of income, clarifications of funds from abroad etc. The civilians believe that this is being done in order to destroy communal harmony on the island. However, expecting “urgent remedial steps”, the National Commission of Minorities have taken up the matter to the Lt. Governor of Andaman and Nicobar islands, Mr. I. P. Gupta, who, in turn, showing naivete, has promised to tale all necessary steps to avoid a Gujarat-like situation.

Census of Muslims: The latest update in the Census ‘jhamela’ is the 10-point circular issued by the Intelligence wing of Gujarat Police for collecting information about the “Muslim activity” in the state. The agenda consists of the collection of information about the Muslims, their organisations, educational institutions, religious congregations and persons involved in undesirable activities. Specifically, it seeks information about the Students Islamic Movement of India; names and addresses of the leaders, the number of Darul Ulema, whether these are recoganised, what degrees they award, which foreign countries they get funds from, and further details about their students. The Muslim community is very much annoyed and distressed, but the government claims it to be a routine exercise. The Human Rights activists and political parties have criticized this collection of this “selective information”, and it is said to be an offensive act against the minorities.

Seeing the controversies arising due to the procedure, the Government of India has finally decided not to include the caste data in the forthcoming Census 2001. With the communities already fuming, the government officials do not want to take any chances.

According to Mr. Vijayanunni, Registrar General and Commissioner of India, it was the decision of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment that actual caste-wise data is required for the implementation of the mandate of the Mandal Commission with regards to the backward castes.

One view is that the inclusion of caste details will give a realistic face to the present caste configuration in India. But according to the demographers and social scientists, this would raise the unaffiliated issues of the size of the various castes, and it goes against the ethos of the Indian Constitution that deliberates a caste-less society.

Still, the decision on including the caste-data may be taken if it is approved by the Home Ministry, the Security agencies, the Welfare Ministry and the Cabinet, but with the situations becoming so worse, and with time running out, it is still a headlong issue.

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