Census Enumeration In India: How Effective Is It?

Posted on April 9, 2011 in Specials


By Amrita Paul:

As stated by the Census results of 2011, the Indian population has increased by one eighty one billion since the last decade with an adult literacy rate of 74.04%. The density of population is now three eighty two people per square km wherein the sex ratio is of 940 females for every 1000 males. This process of census enumeration is the longest running series — Census 2011 is the fifteenth census from 1872. But, did you ever sit back and question as to how such information was acquired in the first place? Did you even pause to enquire about the credibility of such statistics? Personally, I never relied much on the Census published by the Government because I somehow felt that the data has been mostly manipulated in some way or the other. Today, even after the Census results are out, a question lingers in my mind -“Is the enumeration just a hoax, or a novel attempt to understand the country better?

The Census website of India is warm and welcoming, especially because of the new logo which says – “Our CENSUS, Our FUTURE.” The site proudly boasts as to how this time (Census 2011), the entire processing of data was completed in about one and a half year. Previously it used to take more than double the same time. But how did it all start to end so swiftly? The Census enumeration was carried out in two phases namely a house listing operation and population enumeration.

The house listing operation, along with the collection of information for preparation of a National Population Register, started on April 7 and concluded May 22 last year. The house listing exercise was basically carried out to identify where people live and the amenities they have. This provided the framework to conduct the population headcount, carried out in February this year.

For the purpose of population enumeration, two and half million were selected across the country to visit households and collect the required information. The enumerators had to undergo three days of training where they were briefed with all aspects of Census and were also provided guideline manuals which are available in eighteen languages. Each enumerator had to visit 125 homes in about twenty days, which meant that he/she did not have to go to more than 6-7 households a day.

Thus, the task which seems unachievable was distributed deftly amongst individuals to ensure that 240 million households were covered without any difficulty. To ensure accuracy, the enumerators had to again visit the assigned areas during March 1-5 to take into account any death, birth, arrival of visitors ever since his or her last visit. After the filled questionnaires were brought back, they were scanned and converted into a database.

In spite of such efforts, errors creep in because of different languages and font styles of citizens, which then require being manually corrected. Unfortunately, correction is not the only source of worry for the officials. Faith, for example, is not simple simple enough to decipher. For e.g.: A person might be a Muslim by his faith but could also have adopted ideologies of the Arya Samaj. Gender is another serious issue, as many people don’t report their female children or divorced daughters. Some even claim that the females of the house aren’t working, although they are. Having said that, these reasons alone are not responsible for the alarming drop in female population as seen in the provincial results of 2011.

From mere head counts to an extensive and well planned procedure, Census Enumeration in India has certainly come a long way. Originally started to keep track of socio-demographic phenomena like famines, epidemics or the natural increase of population, today Census Enumeration provides an identity to modern day India. Also, because of this tradition (if I may say so), it has been found out that the population increment of this decade is considerably less in comparison to the previous decade by an entire 3.9%.

Hence, I think that inspite of controversies and prejudices, the Census Enumeration of 2011 has emerged victorious, By employing around three million of the country’s population, certain awareness has been spread regarding the importance of demographics in our nation. Even after being judgemental about the entire procedure, I genuinely feel that this extensive research, reaching out to even the poorest of people, has instilled enough conviction across the country to make most believe that -“My presence counts.”