Welfare Schemes will falter in the Absence of Accurate Population Data : Daily Current Affairs

Date: 01/02/2023

Relevance: GS-1: Population, Migration and Associated Issues and remedies.

Relevance: GS-2: Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health; Hunger and Poverty related issues.

Key Phrases: Population Census, National Population Register, National Family Health Survey, Total Fertility Rate, Migration, Welfare State, Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, Ministry of Home Affairs.


  • To achieve the target of a $10 trillion economy by 2035, conducting a population Census, due in 2021 but postponed indefinitely because of Covid, is a necessary step for India.

Key Highlights:

  • Census data is essential for planning at the village or block level to usher in economic and social development, ensure better governance, and increase the transparency of public schemes and programmes.
  • India has a long history of conducting Census without interruption from 1881 with the rare exception of Assam in 1981 and Jammu Kashmir in 1991 due to sociopolitical unrest and secessionist movements.
  • 16th Census of India is to be the first digital Census of the country.

Significance of Census Data:

  • Source of Statistical Information
    • The Indian Census is the largest single source of a variety of statistical information on different characteristics of the people of India.
  • Basis of Plans and Programmes
    • The Census forms the basis of all the plans and programmes that the government wants to implement.
  • Research and Demography
    • Researchers and Demographers use census data to analyze the growth and trends of the population and make projections.
  • Demarcation
    • Census data is also used for the demarcation of constituencies and allocation of representation to Parliament, State legislative assemblies and the local bodies.
  • Good Governance
    • The data collected through the census is used for administration, planning and policy-making as well as management and evaluation of various programmes by the Government.
  • Better Access for Businesses
    • The census data is also important for business houses and industries for strengthening and planning their business for penetration into areas, which had hitherto remained, uncovered.

Population Census

  • About
    • Population Census is the total process of collecting, compiling, analyzing and disseminating demographic, economic and social data pertaining, at a specific time, of all persons in a country or a well-defined part of a country.
    • The decennial Census is conducted by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, Ministry of Home Affairs.
    • Beginning in 1872 under British Viceroy Lord Mayo, the first complete census was taken in 1881 under Ripon.
      • Till now, India has conducted a population census 15 times including the last in 2011.
  • Periodicity
    • Constitutional provision:
      • The Constitution talks about the use of Census data for the delimitation of constituencies and for determining the quantum of reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
      • However, it does not say what should be the periodicity of the census.
    • Census Act, of 1948:
      • Census is conducted under the provisions of the Census Act, 1948.
      • It provides the legal background for several activities relating to the Census without mentioning anything about its periodicity.
      • It says, “The Central Government may declare its intention of taking a census, whenever it may consider it necessary or desirable to do so, and thereupon the census shall be taken”.
      • This provision puts the onus of deciding when to conduct a Census on the executive.
  • Key Features
    • Census 2021 will be conducted in 18 languages out of the 22 scheduled languages (under the 8th schedule) and English.
    • The option of “Other” under the gender category will be changed to “Third Gender”.
    • Data is proposed to be collected through a mobile app by enumerators
    • The information collected during the population Census is so confidential that it is not even accessible to the courts of law.


  • About
    • It is the movement by people from one place to another with the intention of settling, permanently or temporarily in a new location (within or outside the home country).
  • Types of Migration
    • Internal migration: moving within a state, country, or continent.
    • External migration: moving to a different state, country, or continent.
    • Emigration: leaving one country to move to another.
    • Immigration: moving into a new country.

Implications of the delay:

  • Erroneous estimation of District Population
    • Currently, the biggest challenge facing demographers, planners, and other stakeholders is how to estimate the district population — the district is the basic administrative unit for governing, planning, and executing government projects and schemes.
    • In the absence of updated Census data, demographers estimate the annual population count at the district level using past Census information for the intercensal or postcensal period.
    • Demographic exercises give reasonably fair estimates when the year of population estimation is within the range of a maximum of 10 years.
      • Beyond this period, estimations can be erroneous, particularly at the district level due to dynamic patterns of population components, among them fertility, mortality and migration.
      • So using the growth rate of 2001-2011 for the period after 2021 becomes more of an assumption-based model than a model that reflects empirical reality.
    • Since many states (and districts) lack a complete civil registration system with a full count of birth and death data, demographers face enormous challenges in providing population counts at the district level.
    • For the above reasons, in several instances, estimates tend to be far off the mark.
  • Reservation of seats
    • The Census data are used to determine the number of seats to be reserved for SCs and STs in Parliament, State legislatures, local bodies, and government services.
    • In the case of panchayats and municipal bodies, the reservation of seats for SCs and STs is based on their proportion in the population.
    • Other than the Census, there is no other source that can provide this information.
      • In many towns and even panchayats that have seen rapid changes in the composition of their population over the last decade, this would mean that either too many or too few seats are being reserved.
  • Inadequate Migration Data
    • Migration data collected in the Census has great implications for economic activities and social harmony.
    • As India progresses economically, the pattern of migration within the country, within states as well as outside the country has been changing in unprecedented ways.
    • The migration pattern in India in the present decade is very different from what the data in Census 2001 and 2011 suggest.
      • Hence, in the absence of Census data, it is difficult to draw conclusions about migration in India.
  • Existence of numerous Faiths and Languages:
    • The Census counts everyone across regions, classes, creeds, religions, languages, castes, marital status, differently-abled populations, occupation patterns etc.
    • The existence of numerous faiths and languages as well as the expansion or extinction of such communities will be known only via population Census.
  • Impact of the pandemic:
    • The pandemic resulted in deaths among adults and the aged relatively more than children.
    • Its impact on age distribution in severely affected areas would be of interest as it would give an indirect estimate of the number of deaths.
      • This would either validate or reject the various estimates of the number of deaths due to the pandemic.

Way Forward:

  • There is a need to demystify census operations and build trust in the impartiality of the exercise, better scrutiny of electoral records and welfare schemes to weed out bogus beneficiaries.
  • Conducting the population Census is a mammoth task. Therefore, full involvement of the government system is necessary to organize it.
  • A regular Census at the national and sub-national levels has been a matter of pride for India.
    • It has to be continued until India achieves a fool-proof civil registration system and a dynamic National Population Register.


  • Postponing the Census has immediate and long-term negative consequences for India.
    • Therefore, The government should take urgent steps to conduct the Census.

Source: Indian Express

Mains Question:

Q. “Welfare schemes will falter in the absence of accurate population data”. Critically analyse the statement. (150 Words).