Only six religion options make it to next Census form

Detailed codes for Sarnaism, the Lingayat religion, etc. were dropped in the final schedule; Census form to include questions on source of drinking water

Updated - May 27, 2023 08:54 am IST

Published - May 26, 2023 08:22 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Census enumerators collect data from residents. Census 2021, which was to be conducted in two phases, has been postponed indefinitely, with the Central government initially attributing the delay to the COVID-19 pandemic. File

Census enumerators collect data from residents. Census 2021, which was to be conducted in two phases, has been postponed indefinitely, with the Central government initially attributing the delay to the COVID-19 pandemic. File | Photo Credit: PTI

Do you consume packaged or bottled water? The Census wants to know. This will be one of the new questions in the next Census, which will also introduce “natural calamities” as a new option when asking about the factors responsible for the migration of an individual or a family, apart from existing options such as education, marriage, work or business.

Despite demands from several communities to be counted as a separate religion, the next Census will only count Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain as distinct religion options.

Nature-worshipping Adivasis in Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, and Odisha have been campaigning to include their Sarna faith as a separate religion, while Karnataka’s Lingayats have been making a similar demand.

Also Read | Time to count: On government’s delay in conducting census

No separate codes

Though respondents can additionally write the name of any other religion in the Census form, no separate code will be provided.

Census officials had, in fact, designed detailed codes for religion on the basis of data collected during Census 2011. However, they were dropped and only six religion codes were retained in the final schedule after deliberations at a data users conference.

The details are explained in a report titled, “The Treatise on Indian Censuses Since 1981”, which was released by Home Minister Amit Shah at the inauguration of a new Census building in Delhi on May 22.

Digital Census

Census 2021, which was to be conducted in two phases, has been postponed indefinitely, with the Central government initially attributing the delay to the COVID-19 pandemic. The next Census is also set to be the first digital Census, where respondents will have the option to fill in the questionnaire from the comforts of their own homes.

The 31 questions for the first phase — Houselisting and Housing Schedule — were notified on January 9, 2020. As many as 28 questions have been finalised for the second phase — the Population Enumeration — but are yet to be notified. The final set of questions for both phases were asked during a pre-test exercise in 2019 in 76 districts in 36 States and Union Territories, covering a population of more than 26 lakh.

Commuter queries

A comparison of the questions asked in 2011 and those finalised for the next Census shows that for a section on the mode of travel to place of work, respondents will have to answer new queries on their travel time in hours and minutes, and whether they use metro rail.

A question on types and causes of disabilities has been expanded to include “acid attack, intellectual disability, chronic neurological disease and blood disorder.”

Also Read | Explained: Impact of delay in Census 2021

The next Census will also record details on whether a person who lives in a rented house owns a house somewhere else or does not own any residential property. On the question of availability of drinking water, it explains that “near the premises” means “within 100 metres in urban areas” and “within 500 metres in rural areas.”

Directory to reduce bias

For the first time, a code directory — containing possible responses and their matching codes for questions involving descriptive and non-numeric entries — has been prepared for the use of enumerators during the second phase of Census 2021. It has codes in respect of Relationship to Head, Mother Tongue and Other Languages Known, Occupation, Nature of Industry, Trade or Service, Birth Place/Place of last residence, and Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) etc.

“Data processing of these descriptive responses required human intervention to codify into required data format as per the tabulation plan. Data processing for the descriptive response took years for a few questions, which further delayed data dissemination. It also involved risk to data bias and errors because of diverse judgement of enumerators and the persons codifying the response as well,” the report said.

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