Q) The Census is not only the basis for reviewing the country's progress in the past decade, monitoring the ongoing schemes of the Government but also planning for the future and delaying it will carry its own costs. Discuss.

Why this question?

Issue of current importance

Key demand of the Question 

Importance of census in India and consequences of its delay.


Discuss- back up the answer by carefully selected evidence to make a case for and against an argument, or point out the advantages and disadvantages of the given context and finally arrive at a conclusion.


Give an overview of the context of the question.


In the first part, highlight the importance of conducting regular census.

In the next part, discuss the consequences of a delay in conducting the 2021 census.


Conclude with a way forward.

Model Answer


Population censuses, typically with a semi-decadal (five-year) or decadal frequency are recognised as indispensable to national resource planning. In India, a census is conducted every decade and Census 2021 will be the 16th national census of the country. However, owing to Covid-19 pandemic, we are midway into 2021 and there is no sign of the Census. As the census shapes political structures, economic decisions, development goals, delaying it will have its costs. 

Importance of Census

  1. Comprehensive Source of Data: Census is a data collection exercise. It gathers knowledge about the demographic dividend of the nation which is vital for many purposes. Various surveys like health survey, education survey, agriculture survey, etc. are based on this comprehensive data.
  2. Decision-making: Census is significant for any country for evidence-based decision making. The data collected through the Census is used for administration, governance, planning and policy-making as well as management and evaluation of various programmes run or to be introduced by the Government, NGOs, researchers, commercial and private enterprises, etc.
  3. Policy-making: Census is responsible for taking the collected information “from a dwelling unit to the delivery unit”. It will boost coherence policy-making and scientific planning, resulting in optimisation of resources. 
  • To scholars and researchers in demography, economics, anthropology, and many other disciplines, the Indian Census has been a fascinating source of data.
  • The collected data from the Census is available to grassroots administrative authorities of a particular region in order to take appropriate developmental tasks.
  • It helps in effective targeting and better delivery of government programmes to the most downtrodden sections of the society.
  1. Demarcation: Census data is also used for the demarcation of constituencies and allocation of representation to the Parliament, State Legislative Assemblies and local bodies.
  2. Giving Grants: Finance Commission gives grants to the states on the basis of population figures available from the Census data.

Consequences of delaying Census 2021

  • The political balance in the Lok Sabha is about to transform when the next delimitation exercise concludes in 2026. If census 2021 doesn’t happen, the states with the poorest record of population management, largely in northern India, will increase their relative presence massively while South and West India will be disadvantaged.
  • There are talks of large-scale investments in infrastructure to restart the economic cycle in Post-Covid-19 period. The Census will help target the investments, by giving planners a sense of who benefits, how much, and at what cost.
  • The revenues as distributed by the Finance Commission might not be adequate as the effect of pandemic on the states will not be taken into account.
  • Welfare measures post Covid19 might not target the actual beneficiaries as the statistical measures such as birth and death rates, fertility rates, gross and net birth rates might not be correctly available.

Census is the basis for reviewing the country's progress in the past decade, monitoring the ongoing schemes of the Government and most importantly, planning for the future. That is why the Slogan is "Our Census - Our Future''. Therefore, the decadal exercise of Census 2021 must be conducted keeping in mind measures like data quality and system.