Population Census: How important is it to have the census on time? damage caused by delay

Census in India is constitutionally mandated but the constitution does not say when the census should be conducted or at what intervals.

Recently an annual report of the UN Population Fund revealed that India will become the most populous country in the world by the middle of this year. According to estimates, by that time India’s population will be 1,428 million (1428 million), slightly ahead of China’s population of 1,425 million.

Census was not done in 2021 due to Kovid epidemic

At the same time, if the census had been done in 2021, a more accurate number of India’s population could have been known. The 2021 Census had to be postponed due to the Covid pandemic. For the first time in the 150-year history of counting the census of India, it was not completed on time. The census is pending even after the end of the Kovid epidemic and normalcy.

However, now nothing can be said clearly about when this will happen. The enumeration is traditionally done in the month of February of the census year, so if the same practice is followed, it could be done in February of the next year at the earliest.

Census in India is constitutionally mandatory

Census in India is constitutionally mandated but the constitution does not say when the census should be conducted or at what intervals. The Indian Census Act of 1948 also does not mention its time or interval. As such, there is no constitutional or legal compulsion that a census should be conducted every 10 years. However, this exercise is carried out in the first year of every decade since 1881.

It is not the legal requirement but the utility of the census that has made it an enduring regular practice. Census gives primary, authentic data. In such a situation, 12 years old data is not reliable on constantly changing metrics. PM Kulkarni, a population scientist and former professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said, “There must be some reasons for not completing the census this year, though I do not know what they could be. Its importance is not being emphasized enough.”

Census can be done in 2023

The Indian census is a large and complex exercise. About 30 lakh enumerators have to visit an estimated 33 crore households to enumerate about 140 crore people and collect other demographic and economic data. Yet 2023 could have been an ideal time to conduct the census and prevent further delays.

Last week, the Census Office released a detailed document on India’s census exercise since 1981, marking the completion of its 150th year of operations. It also has a chapter on the 2021 census that reflects on the interruption caused by the pandemic, but says the break could be helpful in other ways.


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According to the document, “The situation also provided an opportunity to re-examine the tools for conducting the census using innovation and technology.” However, in this document also no date has been given for completing the census, only it has been said that it will happen soon. The Kovid-19 pandemic caused a halt in the Census of India but it is expected that the development and innovation in digital technology in Census will soon complete the unfinished task of India’s 16th Digital Population Census.


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