The entire population of the country, around 1.2 billion, will be enumerated during the second phase which will be conducted simultaneously across the country between February 9 to 28 next year
From hilly terrain to forested areas and from slum clusters to plush apartments in metropolitan cities, Census officials are out in the field across the country gathering information for the first phase of “House listing and Housing Census,'' a key component of “Census 2011,'' that began on April 1.
“This operation will be conducted over a period of 45 days in each State and Union Territory. For example, if the houselisting operation began in a State on April 1, it will conclude on May 15 and so on. The details required for creating the first ever National Population Register (NPR) will also be canvassed during this phase. The entire population of the country, around 1.2 billion, will be enumerated during the second phase which will be conducted simultaneously across the country between February 9 to 28 next year as the reference date has been fixed as March 1, 2011,'' said Dr. C. Chandramouli, India's Census Commissioner and Registrar General.
For the first time, the NPR of usual residents of the country will be created and the element of biometrics like fingerprints and photographs will be introduced. Explaining the philosophy behind NPR, he said it was part of the recommendations made by the Kargil War Review Committee.
“A total of 13 pilot projects were conducted from 2003 and lasting till 2009. It was found that proving a citizenship was difficult in rural areas where no documents, no bank passbooks and no land records were usually available. A sizeable number of the people were left out whereas anyone entering the country illegally and determined to stay put managed all sorts of records. It often led to harassment of genuine citizens. When we say ‘usual residents,' it means citizens as well as non-citizens. The enumeration operation aims at fixing the number of people in the country as on March 1, 2011,'' he told The Hindu over this week-end.
Allaying apprehensions about intrusion in privacy through fingerprinting and photographs of all usual residents above the age of 15 years, Dr. Chandramouli said the data, except fingerprints, was already in the public domain as voters' identity cards and electoral rolls contained basic details as well as photographs. He asserted that the information collected about individuals would be kept absolutely confidential and would not be accessible even to courts of law.
While the Census is a statutory exercise conducted under the provisions of the Census Act 1945, the NPR is being created under the provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and Citizenship Rules (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards), 2003. Two forms will be given to each household, the first relating to houselisting and housing census which will have 35 columns relating to drinking water, amenities like power, and sewer, the second will relate to NPR which will seek usual and basic details on 15 counts like the name, place and date of birth, address, occupation and nationality.
“The enumerator will take down all particulars as given by an individual. There is no need to show any proof. But it is expected that correct and authentic information will be provided. Certain information gathered for the NPR will be published in the local areas for scrutiny and invitation of objections like it is done for the electoral rolls. After the NPR has been finalised, the database will be used only within the government,'' he explained.
After disposal of objections and claims by registrars, the NPR data will be sent to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for de-duplication. The UIDAI, after filtering the data and weeding out duplication, will issue a 16-digit UID number. “This UID number will be part of the NPR and the NPR cards will bear this number. The maintenance of the NPR database and updating it later will be done by the Office of Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India,'' Dr. Chandramouli said.
On the use of modern technology in census operations, he said the Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) software was pioneered by India in Census 2001 and it has become the benchmark for all such exercises around the world. He said Malaysia, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and a very few other countries had incorporated national identity cards in their system but Census and NPR exercise in India was massive in proportions. That many countries in the world do not even have a population equal to the number of officials [about 25 lakh] who will conduct the Indian Census only indicates the size of the operation. About 12,000 metric tonnes of paper will be utilised for printing 64 crore census forms and 50 lakh instruction manuals. While Census forms are being printed in 16 languages, the manuals are being made available in 18 languages.
During the enumeration exercise in February 2011, all homeless people, those living on railway platforms, footpaths as well as those lodged in jails, admitted to hospitals and asylums will be counted. The help of NGOs will be taken.
As decennial Census is a treasure house of useful data along several parameters like demography, economic activity, urbanisation, fertility and mortality, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, language, religion and migration, the data leads to formulation of government plans, schemes and campaigns like those in the recent past on banning female foeticide and launching of rural health mission. The delimitation and reservation of constituencies – Parliamentary, Assembly and Panchayats and other local bodies is also carried out on the basis of the demographic data thrown up by the Census.