The Great Indian Census

The Indian National Census, conducted every ten years, has officially started.  The census has been conducted regularly since 1872, and this will be the 15th one. It is a mammoth exercise, the physical counting of 120 crores population and classifying them according to gender, religion, occupation and education.

The President of India, Smt. Pratibha Patil, was the first person to be listed. She has appealed to fellow Indians to follow her example “for the good of the nation”.

Manish Bharadwaj, Director of census operations explains that in this census the National Population Register (NPR) programme had been linked to the census exercise for the first time.

The primary identification information about individuals will be collected at the first stage. At a later stage, a photograph and biometric data about each individual above 15 years of age, will be collected. This will include facial characteristics and fingerprints of all ten fingers. It may also include pictures of the iris of each individual.

Manish Bharadwaj further says- 

 “Anyone who refuses to give the required information can be fined Rs1,000 by the designated officer.”

Usha Ramanathan makes some very interesting points in her article in The Hindu- “Implications of registering, tracking, profiling”

She says-

 The NPR is not an exercise undertaken under the Census Act 1948. It is being carried out under the Citizenship Act of 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules 2003.

And this makes an important difference.

Section 15 of the Census Act categorically makes the information that we give to the census agency “not open to inspection nor admissible in evidence.” The Census Act enables the collection of information so that the state has a profile of the population; it is expressly not to profile the individual.

This provision regarding confidentiality  is not only absent in the Citizenship Act and Rules-

 but there is an express objective of making the information available to the UID Authority.

The Indian Express has advised Indian citizens to keep all require information about their assets, educational qualifications, residence, etc. handy so as to be able to answers the questions the census officials will ask. These will include-

Material of the floor, wall and roof of the building
Use of the building/condition of house
Number of persons normally residing in the house
Name, caste and sex of the head of the house
Ownership status of the house
Number of dwelling rooms in the house
Number of married couples in the house
Source of drinking water/availability of drinking water
Source of lighting
Availability of toilets in the premises
Waste water outlet connections
Availability of washrooms in the premises
Availability of kitchen/fuel used for cooking
Assets like radio, transistor, television, computer, internet access, telephones, mobile phones, bicycle, scooter, motor cycle, moped, car, van, jeep etc.
If availing bank services
Information needed for the National Population Register
Full name
Date of birth
Marital status
Educational qualification
Occupational activity
Place of birth
Present address
Permanent residential address

Census officials have visited Sonia Gandhi’s residence at 10 Janpath in New Delhi and collected her details.

 So I suppose it would be churlish of us ‘ordinary folk’  to refuse to give ours! Even though I do wonder what would happen if I refused to disclose my caste or religion. Would I be fined a thousand Rupees?

What do you think?



  1. Manju,

    Theoretically, this is a useful exercise.

    In reality, I get the shudders. I see this 100o Rs fine thing being misused, if it is implemented at all. We are so good and making rules and then artfully dodge them to someones monetary benefit. I see cunning folks striking deals with unsuspecting citizens, particularly where education is not easily available….

    I also am more than skeptical at the implementation, with all this diverse data. There are still election cards showing wrong towns, ration cards showing wrong or modified names /sex, and even so called advanced places like Banks who shout about core banking and networking from rooftops, are immensely careless about checking and rechecking data. Pension accounts are single name accounts. I was recently shocked to recieve a new checkbook for my account with someoneelses name printed on it. (The account still has my name ). And the bank showed no remorse.

    Maybe one of the questions should be “do you subscribe to the chalta hai philosophy?”….


    1. The mistakes that will likely be made- that’s exactly what came to my mind, too.

      When we got out voters cards before these last Lok Sabha elections, in their list, they had shown us living in another building on the same street. After we got that corrected, they made a mistake in the flat numbers- out of the four people in our family, they gave two of us the correct flat number, put one in a flat on the same floor, and put the fourth in another flat on a different floor.

      One wonders what mistakes they can make in the UID data.


  2. where they asking these questions even earlier? if so, wonder why conditions still remain the same or worse!

    but then we would at at least how much we have multipied ourselves!


    1. If it were just a population census with limited questions- it would be useful, I think. As you say, we would at least know how much the population has increased, and in which areas.

      But I wonder whether the people who actually go door-to-door filling up the forms will be able to get the answers to so many questions?


  3. All this information will be misused when it’s linked to the NPR…Basically what they are saying is that if you want security, you have to let go of privacy…I shudder to think what will happen when con-men/rogue cops & bureaucrats get hold of all the details…Also, our lives will become hell when predatory marketers get the use of all our information…


    1. Yes, there is a real possibility of this information being misused.

      And I read in the news yesterday that college students were being recruited to go door to door filling in the forms. How will the govt. ensure that they will keep the information they get, confidential?


      1. here we have to take a test to become a census data collector.

        college student as data collectors ? – they would be in a hurry to collect as many households as possible in a single day to collect maximum remuneration.

        some questions like internet access – I can always have internet access in my office, but too expensive to have it at home. so does that mean I have internet access ?


      2. Manju, while doing my post-graduation, we were part of a group collecting data of a nearby village. While some of us did our job diligently, many of our crowd just asked for the ration card and filled in the details. Easy way out!


  4. The last census, we had none visiting our home! What do they do if the door is locked. Or maybe after a certain period fine us Rs 1000/- for cooperating? I hope they have systems in place for a proper survey. The pictures they took for the ration card and the voting card were of such poor quality and the addresses as you pointed out were all wrong.


    1. And if they do make mistakes, how will we find out? For the voters’ lists, we can check in the lists that are open to viewing by the public.

      But in the case of this information collected during the census, it is to be kept confidential. So unless we are sent a copy of our information, we will not know if it has been entered correctly into the database or not.


    1. If I am not asking for any benefits on the basis of my caste, nor am I entitled to any, then why should I be forced to disclose my caste? What difference does it make which caste I am born in? That is what I cannot understand.

      Those who want benefits on the basis of caste can declare their caste if they want to.

      And is it mandatory that every person have a religion? How can the government force me to declare my religion if India is a secular nation?


      1. caste – if a person who practises two differnt faith live in the same household – do they have different classification ? or is there a column – Do not want to declare?


        1. The list as published in the Indian Express says that they will ask about-

          Name, caste and sex of the head of the house

          So evidently the other members of the family will be assumed to have the same caste.
          Don’t know if they will ask each family member their religion…


  5. /*She has appealed to fellow Indians to follow her example “for the good of the nation*/

    hope there is no sarcasm in her statement 😉

    and this census for sure a mamooth exercise and will help the government to devise plans accordingly for sure..

    The biometric identifications are necessary but the situation here is such that every information will fall into hands of wrong doers very easily… they must first inform us on how they are going to protect our personal infos…


  6. I get the shudders too. I dont think caste and such details are required. We need to move ahead, use technology to this. There should be a better way ! I dont know how, but i dont think enough of application of mind has happened here ….

    Its so furustrating…


  7. And how do you decide who is the head of the family? In a nuclear family where both jointly possess the house, I dnt think there’s any “head of the family” thing. This is ridiculous!


    1. Yes, it does seem ridiculous. And in practice they don’t even ask all the questions, but fill out most of the the forms themselves. This has actually happened in the area where we live. 🙂


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