Saturday, December 2, 2023

Is it possible to postpone the Census-2021?

By  Alee khan

 Census is important for any country in many ways. The usefulness of census increases in determining the scale of development of any one country. Census, as the name suggests, ascertains the number of people in it. Along with this, their social, cultural and economic life related is collected and studied. After the study it is published. Census is the name given to the process, which not only provides information about the social, economic, cultural and population of a country, but also provides an opportunity to study the diversity of the country and other aspects related to it. Census is the medium through which the citizens are updated about their society, demography, economics, human life, sociology, statistics etc. about all those things which directly or indirectly affect their life.

 Apart from this, census data is very important in many ways. Census data serves as valuable information sharing in planning and policy-making for the central and state governments. At the same time, statistics are widely used by national and international institutions, scholars, businessmen, industrialists as well as many others. Census is considered a comprehensive source of data. Under this, information about the demographic dividend of a country is collected. Which brings the policy making of the country closer to the accuracy of the forecast. The importance of census data in any country’s evidence-based decisions increases even more. The data collected in any census is very helpful in the formulation of governance, plans and policies as well as their management. The participation of census data increases in the decision making necessary for the development of a particular area. The importance of census data is also because keeping in mind the people of the lowest strata of the society, the operation and success of government programs are ensured. Census data is also used in determining grants. The responsibility of giving equal representation to all the states of the country in proportion to its population is centered around the census data. On the basis of census data, the constituencies of Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha and local bodies are delimited.

 If we look at the historical background of the Indian census, we will find that the first mention of the census is found in the ancient literature ‘Rigveda’. Subsequent studies revealed that census is mentioned in Kautilya’s Arthashastra. Ain-i-Akbari of medieval India also gives an analysis of notable data about census. If we talk about British India, then the first census was done in 1872 during the reign of Mayo. Immediately after that in 1881, for the first time, a census was conducted in the whole country simultaneously. Since then, the census has been conducted on a continuous decadal basis. This year’s Census-2021 will be the 16th so far (since 1872) and the 8th since the independence of the country (since 1947).

 But at present, Corona has become a big canker for human civilization. In such a situation, it was not possible to get Census-2021 done on time. It is bound to be delayed. Due to the Corona epidemic, we are yet to travel halfway through 2021, but there is currently no sign of the census process starting. Let us inform that the process of Census-2021 was to be executed in two phases. In the first phase, the census-workers were asked to go door-to-door between April and September of the year 2020 to collect information related to the houses and the facilities available in them. At the same time, in the second phase, it was said that the work of population of the country i.e. counting of people would be completed in the mid-period from February 9 to 28. But due to the corona epidemic, not a single phase could be started yet.

 Significantly, in September 2019, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had announced that Census-2021 would be conducted entirely through mobile phone applications. It was said to conduct the 2021 census in 16 languages. At the same time, in 2021, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget speech had confirmed that the 2021 census will be the first digital census in India. The Finance Minister had allocated Rs 3,768 crore to conduct the census in the 2021 Union Budget of India. Census-2021 has been delayed due to Corona epidemic. In such a situation, this delay will emerge as a big problem.

 At present, the question that arises in the mind and mind of every Indian is whether it is possible to postpone the Census-2021? As will be known, the current delimitation period will expire in the year 2026. In such a situation, the political balance in the Lok Sabha is certain to change. If the census is not conducted in the year 2021, the states with the worst record of population management will see a massive increase in representation in the Parliament, mainly in northern India. On the contrary, South and West India will suffer. In addition, the Finance Commission has been providing guidance on the distribution of tax revenue between the Center and the states. The basis for distribution of tax has taken a more controversial form since the GST. But population plays a decisive role in this matter. In such a situation, the postponement of Census-2021 is going to prove to be an unfair step. However, the decadal census is the largest data collection work done by India. And it is very important not only for estimating population growth, but also for estimating basic amenities like drinking water, sanitation, housing and electricity. Census is also considered necessary for political decisions, economic decisions and development goals. In such a situation, avoiding it will prove to be a far cry, but the delay in this is going to be very heavy.(Author is  Jaisalmer based freelance writer, columnist and commentator. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at [email protected])

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