India Census 2011 - Each Resident Counts

By Ravinder Singh
Director (M & C), Press Information Bureau, New Delhi.

New Delhi, Feb 21, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB-India) Census is the most credible source of information on demography, economic activity, literacy, education, housing, household amenities, urbanization, fertility, mortality, language, religion, migration, disability and other socio-cultural and demographic data. Census 2011 is the 15th National Census of the country and 7th since Independence. The first systematic Census conducted all over the country in a non-synchronous manner was in 1872 and in 1881 the first synchronous Census was conducted all over the country. The Census is a statutory exercise conducted under the provisions of the Census Act, 1948 and Census Rules, 1990.  Census serves as primary data for planning and implementation of policies of the Central and State Governments. Also, it is utilized for the purpose of reservation of constituencies for Parliamentary, Assembly and local body elections. The Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India is the nodal authority for conducting Census in the country.

What is Census?

Population census is the total process of collecting, compiling, analysing and disseminating demo-graphic, economic and social data pertaining, at a specific time, to all persons in a country or a well defined part of a country. As such, the Census provides a snapshot of the country’s population and housing at a given point of time.

Census Process

The Census process involves visiting each and every household and gathering particulars by asking questions and filling up Census Forms. The information collected about individuals is kept absolutely confidential. In fact, this information is not accessible even to Courts of law. This provision is there to encourage people to give correct information without any fear.

For population enumeration, 29 questions have been devised on demographic, marital status, cultural, literacy, economic, migration, travel to place of work and fertility parameters. After the field work is over, the forms are transported to data processing centres located at 15 cities across the country. Finalisation of provisional figures of population is done within three weeks after enumeration.

Census 2011

Census 2011 is to be conducted in two phases. The first phase, called the House listing and Housing Census was conducted between April and July last year over a period of 45 days in each State/UT depending on the convenience of different States/UTs. The second phase called the Population Enumeration phase began simultaneously all over the country from February 9, 2011 and will continue up to February 28, 2011. The revisional round of enumeration will be held from March 1 to 5, 2011. In snow-bound areas, enumeration and revisional round were carried out between September 11 to October 6, 2010.

Magnitude of Operations

Census in India is a mammoth project. Spread across 35 States and Union Territories, the Census would cover 640 Districts, 5767 Tehsils, 7742 Towns and more than 6 lakhs villages. More than 240 million households will be visited and 1.20 billion people enumerated during the exercise. To carry out this massive exercise, more than 3 million people are engaged. This includes 2.7 million enumerators and supervisors, 54 thousand master trainers, 725 master trainer facilitators and 90 national trainers. 64 crore Census Forms and 54 lakh Instruction Manuals have been printed in 18 languages. 340 million Census schedules have been printed in 16 languages. Bar codes, form numbers and location particulars (partly pre-printed) are new features added to Census 2011. The Census would cost around Rs.2209 crore. The per capita cost is less than Rs.18.33.

Mapping Activities

The availability of accurate maps as per the latest administrative boundaries is a pre-requisite for Census. The Cartographic Division of the Census Commission has evolved over the years and is now the largest producer of thematic maps in the country. It has come a long way from the traditional manual cartographic methods used until 1981 and now utilizes the latest GIS software to produce digital maps. The latest addition in Census 2011 is the preparation of satellite imagery-based digital maps at the street and building level in 33 capital cities of the country.

New features in Census 2011

Certain new features have been added to the 2011 census.  These include state of art designing of the schedules; new/revised questions on the institutional house- hold, new category in gender parameter; a separate code for the separated and divorced; new codes under status of school attendance and a separate code included under non-economic activity. In the work-related questions, a new category for those who work for less than three months has been introduced in ‘Among Marginal Workers’. Rentiers – a separate Code-5 has been included under non-economic activity and prostitutes are to be categorized under ‘Others’ in place of ‘Beggar’ in the previous Census. Provision to specify the present name of the village/town of the birth place as well as the place of last residence has been introduced in the ‘Migration’ heading. Census 2011 has also introduced new initiatives to sensitise school students about census operations.

Technology Used

India has always been in the forefront of technology as far as Census is concerned. The Intelligent Character Recognition Software (ICR) that was pioneered by India in Census 2001 has become the benchmark for Censuses all around the globe. This involves scanning of the Census Forms at high speed and extracting the data automatically using computer software. This revolutionary technology has enabled the processing of the voluminous data in a very short time and saving a huge amount of manual labour and cost. The ICR technology with advanced features will ensure faster completion of work and bringing down to 1-2 years the time taken to complete this process from 4-5 years in 2001.

Omissions rate in the Indian Census is around 1.7 per cent which is well within international norms and the effort in the ongoing Census is to further reduce this rate.

People’s Participation

For ensuring people’s participation in a big way and smooth conduct of the Census process, mass media and public outreach programmes and campaigns on digital media were launched. Rural areas and common man were in special focus in these campaigns so as to sensitize them about the critical issues involved.

With a view to giving a face to Census, a mascot of an enumerator has been created for Census 2011. This is expected to help people relate with the Census process, besides recognising the key role of enumerators in the process.  A toll free number and services of call centre have been introduced for addressing grievances from the public.


A milestone of Census 2011 is the creation of National Population Register (NPR). The details required for creating the NPR were canvassed during the first  phase. The creation of NPR of usual residents of the country is an ambitious project. It involves the collection of specific information on each person residing in the country. It would cover an estimated population of 1.2 billion and the total cost of the scheme is Rs.3539.24 crore. This is for the first time that NPR is being prepared. The database will be built by the Registrar General, India. Census and NPR are different, even though the basic idea behind both the exercises is collection of information.

NPR involves the creation of a comprehensive identity database for the country. This would facilitate planning, better targeting of government schemes/programmes and also strengthen the security of the country. Another aspect that differentiates NPR from Census is that NPR is a continuous process. In census, services of the concerned officers are dispensed with after the work is over, while in the case of the NPR, the role of concerned officers and that of subordinate officers like the Tehsildar and Village Officers is of continuing nature and permanent.

- PIB Features