The current census process leaves no scope for duplication, C Chandramouli, registrar general and census commissioner, tells Saubhadro Chatterji
The government has said that census 2011 will be unique. What has been the thought process behind the exercise?
Before any census, we hold a meeting of all data users. All of them give their wish lists, but it’s not possible to accommodate all the demands. We have tried to include the important parameters. We have contacted teachers to conduct door-to-door surveys. We have published the schedule in 16 languages.
In some cases, on suggestions from data users, we have gone into the specifics. Take the example of drinking water. Earlier, we used to ask the person being interviewed if he was getting tap water. This time, we will ask if the water he is getting has been treated at source. There were demands to classify huts under hand-made and machine-made categories. We couldn’t accept that. But we are taking into account mobile, TV, radio and laptop use, besides internet accessibility. In short, we are trying to measure the quality of life that people are leading. This will be a progress report of the country.
After assessing the households, in February, we will focus on individual data. Then, the National Population Register (NPR) will come into the picture. Please remember, Census 2011 and NPR are separate. We are collecting data for these two together just to save time.
Tell us something about the arrangements involved?
We have given a lot of importance to the quality of the data. The forms are of international quality with bar codes. We are also using a software that will enable us to process data quickly and smoothly. We hope to give the results is less time than in the previous census. Just to give you an idea of the work, we are using materials that weigh a total of 12,000 kg. There are 17,000 locations for distributing and collecting data papers. The Government of India has deployed 5,000 employees. Apart from these, about 2.5 million people are involved in collection of data and field work.
What is the idea behind NPR?
After the Kargil war, the Subramanyam Committee recommended that all citizens be issued identity cards. A pilot project was launched for issuing multi-purpose national identity cards (MNICs). The lesson we learnt was that it was difficult, especially in rural areas, to ask citizens to provide proof of citizenship. This was more difficult in the case of rural women. They are born somewhere and get married somewhere else. They hardly carry citizenship proof. So, the Group of Ministers decided that instead of citizenship, the government will record the residentship.
There are 15 different pieces of information in NPR, largely to do with the identity of the person. This is where biometrics will come into the picture. Remember one thing: We are not trying to ascertain if he is an Indian or a foreigner. We are trying to see if he is a resident of India or not.
What measures are being taken to avoid duplication and omissions?
After this round of data collection, we will go back to citizens between March 1 and 5, 2011. This will be done simultaneously in all parts of the country. The exercise will incude another round of physical checking. Also, we will ask families if there have been deaths or births between the current round and March. The final figure will show the Census of India as at 0000 hours of March 1, 2011.
NPR is linked to the unique identification number (UID) project. We will provide the data to the UID authority. It will scan the biometrics and inform us if there are double or triple biometric signs. We will physically check and inform the authority which data should be accepted.
As NPR and UID involve biometrics, there is no way a person can issue more than one identity card or enrol twice.
Also, we will also publicly display the primary list in villages. Then, it will be sent to the gram sabha before being sent to the UID authority. Thus, the village itself will be able to do the primary scrutiny and tell us if there is something wrong.
After publishing the census data, we will update it regularly.
What measures are you taking to ensure that Naxalites don’t hamper the data collection process?
So far, no one has opposed the census. The Naxalites have never raised their voice against the census, which tries to ascertain the ground reality. In fact, if a section of the society wants to show the status of development, or lack of it, it should allow the census to take place, as we provide an unbiased report card of development. We hope the Naxalites do not stop us from data collection. But, we have sensitised the workers who will be working in Naxal-affected areas. As far as the security of the workers is concerned, state governments will have to take care.
Will this census give information about the various castes?
In independent India, there has never been a census where details related to castes were given. We don’t have that mandate from the government. There is no change in policy. We will only come out with total scheduled caste and scheduled tribe population in various areas. Details about caste will not be spelled out.