Avoid further delay in conducting the Census

Why in News?

  • It is announced that the freezing of administrative boundary for census would be done from 1 July 2023.


  • Census exercise in India is conducted once every ten years. It has been reported that the freezing of administrative boundaries that usually precedes the Census would be done with effect from July 1, 2023.
  • The freezing of administrative boundaries is essential because creating new districts and tehsils or reorganizing existing ones by the State governments might result in chaos and a likelihood of some regions being left out of the Census. 
  • It should be noted that the House-listing operation is a month-long exercise and was conventionally taken up by different States at different times. It was conventionally conducted between March and September of the year prior to the Census. 
  • However, there is no official statement about the Census. Moreover, there is no clarity on even the synchronization of house-listing operations with the freezing of boundaries and census enumeration.
  • In 2020, several states were about to begin the house listing process. But due to the pandemic, the house listing exercise and subsequently the census enumeration was postponed.


  • The Constitution of India describes the utilization of Census data for delimitation of constituencies and for determining the share of reservation for Scheduled Castes(SCs) and Scheduled Tribes(STs). However, the Constitution is silent on the periodicity of the census. 
  • Similarly, the Census Act, 1948, though provides the legal background for various activities of the Census, does not mention anything about periodicity. The act authorizes the central government to decide when to conduct a Census. 
  • Notably, in various countries like the U.S. and Japan, either the Constitution or the Census law mandates a Census with defined periodicity.

Impact of Delay of Census:

  • The Census provides the population count of every village and town in India. It also provides information about demographic characteristics, housing, and amenities.
  • Though population projection through surveys is quite reliable at the state and national levels, they are not feasible at lower geographic levels like districts and villages. Furthermore, surveys have some limitations and cannot be used to find all important information. For instance, the number of villages with literacy rates less than 70%, etc. 
  • The census data is also used to determine the number of seats reserved for SCs and STs at various levels of government bodies. A delay in the census would imply that 2011 census data will be used, even though there are rapid changes in the population composition of towns and panchayats.
  • Moreover, rural-urban distribution has also drastically changed with higher population growth in urban areas due to in-migration.
  • Additionally there is a large variation in the growth of urban areas as well. For instance, areas under the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike grew by 49.3% during 2001-11 whereas the Kolkata Municipal Corporation recorded a decline in population during the same period. The COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted the age distribution by causing more deaths in the adult and aged population in comparison to children. The census would also validate or reject the estimates of the number of deaths due to the pandemic.

Census and National Population Register:

  • There were controversies associated with the National Population Register(NPR) before the pandemic. The central government has proposed to update the data of NPR during the census.
  • Since the census is a single-shot exercise with no scope for a retake. It is advised to separate the two activities and dissociated the census from a politically sensitive issue.
  • Separation of two activities will help in timely completion of the exercise and would also maintain its reliability.
  • It should also be remembered that the first Census after 2026 would be used for the delimitation of parliamentary and Assembly constituencies and for the apportionment of parliamentary seats among the States. As there is a disparity in the growth rates among states, the then census would be held in a politically charged environment. Thus there is a  need to carefully conduct this census. 
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