According to official sources cited by news agency PTI, the decadal Census, which was postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is unlikely to be conducted before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections scheduled for April-May 2024.
Citizens to be asked 31 questions
The Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner has outlined 31 questions that will be asked during the Census, including inquiries about access to smartphones, internet, laptops, computers, cars, two-wheelers, and the primary cereal consumed.
Among the questions planned for citizens, the Census will inquire about telephone lines, internet connections, mobile or smartphone ownership, bicycles, scooters, motorcycles or mopeds, as well as car, jeep, or van ownership. Additional inquiries will cover topics such as the main source of drinking water and lighting, toilet facilities and types, wastewater outlets, availability of bathing and kitchen facilities, LPG/PNG connections, primary cooking fuel used, and the availability of radios, transistors, and televisions.
Furthermore, respondents will be asked about the predominant materials used for the floor, wall, and roof of their census houses, the condition of the houses, the total number of residents in the household, whether the household head is a woman, if the head belongs to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, the number of dwelling rooms exclusively possessed by the household, and the number of married couples residing in the household, among other factors.
Importance of an accurate nationwide census
Officials from the Election Commission and the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner have indicated that conducting the Census from October onwards would be challenging due to the involvement of the same set of people required for election-related activities. Union Home Minister Amit Shah recently emphasized the importance of an accurate nationwide census, stating that previous censuses had hindered timely budget preparation due to inaccurate information.
Originally planned for 2021, the Census was allocated a budget of Rs 8,754.23 crore by the central government. The data collection process was scheduled to be carried out in two phases, with the first phase set for April to September 2020 and the second phase in February 2021. However, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the postponement of the operation. There are indications that the Census, the first digital one, will only take place after the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
What is Census?
The Census is a comprehensive survey that encompasses various aspects of society, including literacy levels, education, housing, household amenities, migration, urbanization, fertility and mortality rates, language, religion, disability, and socio-cultural and demographic data such as age, gender, and marital status. It serves as the largest repository of the nation's population and provides primary data at the village, town, and ward levels.
Traditionally, the Census process involved workers visiting each household to fill out forms, which were later digitized and analyzed at data processing centers. However, in the digital era, workers will now use tablets or smartphones to enter information directly into a portal during door-to-door visits. The Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner (ORGI), under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, bears the responsibility for conducting the Census, which previously took around 12 months to complete all pre-census activities and enumeration.