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With little time left for administrative work, Census is unlikely before LS elections


The ten-year census, which has been postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic, is unlikely to take place before the next Lok Sabha elections due in April-May 2024, officials said.

Access to smartphones, the internet, laptops, computers, cars, two-wheelers and the major breakfast cereals consumed are some of the 31 questions to be asked in the Census, when it is conducted.

The Census inventory phase and the exercise to update the National Population Register (NPR) were scheduled to be conducted nationwide from April 1 to September 30, 2020, but were postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Census operation is still on hold and the government has not yet announced a new schedule.

In January, the Office of the Registrar General and Commissioner for the Census of India announced that the date of freezing of administrative boundaries — the creation of new districts or sub-districts — has been extended to June 30, the officials said.

According to the standards, the census can only be conducted three months after (after September 30) freezing of the border boundaries of administrative units such as districts, sub-districts, tehsils, taluks and police stations.

It will also take two to three months to train the entire 3 million government employees/teachers across India who will be appointed as census enumerators.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission will initiate the process for the next General Election, such as voter roll review, etc.

As of October, there will be little room to hold the Census exercise, as the same group of people are supposed to be appointed by both the Election Commission and the Office of the Clerk General and Census Commissioner, the officials said.

As the priority will be changed, the Census operation will most likely be carried out only after the Lok Sabha elections, they said.

This exercise, when it takes place, will be the first digital census, giving citizens the chance to enumerate themselves.

The NPR has been made mandatory for citizens who wish to exercise the right to complete the Census form themselves rather than through government enumerators. To this end, the Census Authority has designed a yet-to-be-launched self-enumeration portal.

During the self-enumeration process, Aadhaar or mobile number is compulsorily collected. According to the Office of the Clerk General and Census Commissioner, 31 questions have been put to citizens.

This includes asking whether a family has a telephone line, internet connection, mobile or smartphone, bicycle, scooter or motorcycle or moped, whether it has a car, jeep or van.

Citizens will also be asked what grains they consume in the household, main source of drinking water and lighting, access to toilet and its type, waste water disposal, availability of bathing facilities, availability of kitchen and LPG/PNG connection, main fuel used for cooking, availability of radio, transistor, television, among others.

Updated: May 29, 2023, 12:47 PM IST

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.