2011 Census: Provisional population figures by March-end

 Held every 10 years, the Census this time has several unique features and challenges unlike in the past and the results will start rolling out from March-end, says C Chandramouli, registrar general and Census Commissioner of India in an interview with B S Arun of Deccan Herald. Excerpts:

How has the experience been of the mega exercise so far?

We have completed phase-I in the entire country except for a few villages in Chhattisgarh and West Bengal because of non-cooperation from the locals there. This phase, conducted between April and September 2010, consisted of house listing and housing census. The second phase, from February 9 to 28, is about population enumeration. These two phases cover 240 million households in 6.4 lakh villages and 8,001 villages of 640 districts in 35 states. We have deployed 2.71 million enumerators for this gigantic task.

We have printed 5.4 million instruction manuals in 18 languages and 340 million census schedules in 16 languages. The entire exercise is costing Rs 2,200 crore at Rs 18 per head.

What are the unique features in this Census?

We have about 30 questions (unlike just six in China census) which include new ones like date of birth; in addition to male and female, we have introduced ‘others’ where transgenders can be included; there is a question on current marital status: married, separated or divorced; prostitutes can be included in ‘others’ in place of ‘beggar’, etc.
Other questions include age, religion, whether SC or ST or others; educational qualification, etc. For the first time, enumerators would collect such information as ownership of mobile phones, computers and the internet connectivity, having treated or untreated drinking water facility and banking services.

Every person living in India will be counted, including embassies. Homeless will be counted on February 28 as enumerators will collect the data of migrant population. On the same day, our enumerators will board all ships anchored in ports and carry out enumeration there. Illegal immigrants too will be counted. The exercise would also be carried out at  airports, railway stations and bus terminals. We are on Facebook and Twitter and we already have over 2,000 members and followers. We are getting good response/feedback especially from youngsters.

What about the disabled?

The NGOs say there was a lot of undercounting of the disabled in the previous enumerations. Our enumerators felt they would be disturbing the feelings of the respondents who sometimes refuse to answer them. We worked extensively with social organisations who trained our enumerators. We have expanded disabled qualification/definition so that more are added to this. All disabilities mentioned under the Persons With Disability Act and National Trust Act will come under census. A lot of effort has gone into design and instruction manual in this regard. We hope disabled data will be better this year than last time.

What is the extent of automation this census has?

At the stage of enumeration there is not really much. We tried hand-held devices but they were not useful. However, post-processing is completely automised. We don’t do data entry, we scan the forms. Software requires images and everything is automatically processed. This speeds up our work. We are using image recognition software procured from an Israeli company.

How is the processing progressing?

As for the first phase, we have already started processing the data and are working 24x7 in 15 centres. We have scanned the entire data contained in over 30 crore forms after which it is digitised. These forms are kept in huge godowns, neatly bound and preserved. Each rack will have inventory, and is systematically scanned. We can recover them anytime.

The exercise will mark a milestone as the first ever National Population Register (NPR) will also be prepared; all persons above 15 would be photographed and fingerprinted to create a biometric national database. The entire population will be fingerprinted in a year from now. Once the NPR’s final database is created, it will be sent to the Unique Identification Authority of India for duplication and generation of UID number and for issue of smart identity card.

When can we expect the results to start coming?

Provisional population totals should be out by the end of next month and we will also give provisional figures for male, female, children from 0-6 age group. This will be followed by detailed processing which takes about two years during which we will be releasing data from time to time. Last time it took five years to complete the entire process of giving results. This time it will be completed in two years.

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