Census : The Population Census of India, conducted every ten years, is the most comprehensive source of information on the size, distribution, living conditions and demographic characteristics of the population. It is also an important source of the religious, linguistic and cultural profiles of the people. It serves therefore, both as a tool of the State polices and as a means for understanding the socio-economic transformation of the society, economy and polity of the nation. The census of a country is a valued symbol of the Nation State as a concept. In India, a census over different parts at different time points was first conducted during the period 1867-72, being known as the Census of 1872. However, since 1881 a Population Census has been conducted in the country regularly every ten years and the Census 2001 is the 14th and the latest in the series. With each census the scope and the coverage has been enlarged, particularly since the Census 1961, in order to provide meaningful information for developmental planning as also to make it more responsive to the present day requirements. The provisional totals of the Census 2001 conducted during February-March 2001 have been released on 26 March 2001 and have placed India’s population at 1027 million on 1 March 2001. Provisional totals of the population at the district level, by sex, in broad age categories 0 to 6 and 7+, literate and illiterates among men and women aged 7 and above are already available for all the States and UTs. Current Status : The Population Census is a Union subject and the Ministry of Home Affairs is in charge of this subject. It is listed at serial No. 69 in the seventh schedule of Article 256 of the Constitution of India. The Population Census is taken as per the provisions of the Census Act, 1948, which empowers the Central Government to conduct a Census of the population of the country after duly notifying it. The Act places a legal obligation upon the public to cooperate and give truthful answers and also places a legal obligation upon the enumerator to record the responses faithfully. The Act guarantees confidentiality of information to the individuals. The responsibility to conduct the decennial Population Census under the Census Act lies with the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India. Though the Census is a Union subject, the actual conduct of the Indian census has always been the joint endeavour of both Central and State Governments. The entire field operation, which includes house listing and population enumeration are organised through the general administrative machinery of the States at various levels. At the State and UT level, the Director of Census Operations appointed under the Census Act is responsible for organising and supervising the census operation within his State and UT. The census is the only comprehensive source of demographic information right up to the lowest levels. The information collected includes details of the census house, its status residential or non-residential, amenities, information on households and the occupants such as sex, age, marital status, religion, mother tongue and language, scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, literacy, educational level attained, place of birth and past residence, economic activity, migration, fertility and information collected occasionally through questions included to understand specific problems such as disability, ex-servicemen and pensioners. The Population Census thus gives a detailed picture of the national economy and of society; it’s various administrative units like States or UTs, districts, tehsils or talukas or anchals, etc. and for each city, town and village with changes over time. It generates a wealth of information, which is utilised by the country for planning purposes, determining the seats in the Lok Sabha and the State Legislatures, delimitation of electoral boundaries and for various types of developmental programmes. In the era of decentralised planning, the census has the potential to provide a much-needed database to formulate programme and polices at the local level. The results of the Population Census data are published in various tables categorised into six broad categories indicating the nature of topics covered in each series. These are: A Series: General Population Tables B Series: General Economic Tables C Series: Social and Cultural Tables D Series: Migration Tables F Series: Fertility Tables H Series: Tables on Houses and Household Amenities. Concepts and Definitions The concepts and definitions used in the Population Census have often changed in the past to enhance the coverage and sometimes because of the need to adopt standardised concepts and definitions. For example, the definitions of economic activity, of workers and non-workers have been improved. The definition of economic activity was expanded in Census 1991 and has been further expanded in Census 2001 to include certain non-market activities, thus bringing it closer to the ILO definition. This however, poses problems in comparability of data from one census to another, as comparable data are not published to study the effect of the improved definition. Quality Aspects and Post Enumeration Check Methodology Though the data collected over successive censuses has become more accurate and reliable in quality, still discrepancies do creep in due to a lack of technically qualified persons, poor response from the respondents, illiteracy of the masses, a widely scattered population, lack of adequate financial resources, etc. The quality of the census data therefore, needs to be ensured through better training of the enumerators in the concepts and definitions used, making more aids available to the enumerators to facilitate probing and a vigilant supervisory mechanism to reduce the content and coverage errors as far as possible. The Post Enumeration Check (PEC) is carried out with the objective of estimating the coverage errors in the census of houses and population and to get an estimate of the extent of content error. The sampling design used for PEC is however, quite old and needs a fresh look. Further, the conduct of PEC by the State Government staff raises some doubt on the integrity of the PEC, which should better, be entrusted to an independent agency. Non-Tabulation of certain collected information In every Population Census, valuable data are collected during the house listing operation through the household schedule. However, some of the information, which would otherwise throw light on important socio-economic and cultural aspects, even though collected, is not released to the public. Certain data, if released, at further disaggregated levels would be very useful for meeting district and local planning needs. To illustrate, the data on religion, caste and language, cross-classified by literacy, work and workers categories and migration is not published. These data would throw considerable light on the backwardness or otherwise of people belonging to different religious groups and beliefs, though one realises that these questions are quite sensitive. It is better to face the facts courageously rather than shying away from them. Again information on migration of persons belonging to the SC/ST categories from rural and urban areas would enrich the stock of socially relevant information. It could be analysed, for example, as to whether distress migration is due to natural calamities and/or social discrimination, which is still prevalent especially in rural areas. Similarly, the information on persons unemployed, cross-tabulated with educational level both for rural and urban areas are given for age 15 years and above only. The same information for children between 5-14 years would reveal the extent of child labour, which could be useful information for policy makers. Most of the tables that relate to fertility are presented at the State level only, though these data have immense value at the district level. Similarly, data on scientific and technical personnel cross-classified across various parameters such as sector of work, age, sex, etc. is also available at the State level only. The presentation of these data not only at the district level but also at blocks, towns and cities is highly desirable as the increase of unemployment, mismatch between specialisation and job and also influx of migrants to urban centres and metropolis are quite evident but have to be studied and quantified. The data on beggars, prostitutes, and others who are engaged in “non-economic activities” are clubbed together and it is not possible to assess the dimensions of these social problems. Census Organisation For a country of the size of India, with a decentralised set up the conduct of census is a mammoth task and requires mobilisation of huge administrative machinery. Over the years, the population of the country has been growing at an alarming rate and poses a challenge to the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, in taking this decadal exercise. Therefore, to confine the burden of this responsibility to a single Joint Secretary sets limitations for the conduct of this statutory exercise that requires considerable advance planning, coordination with States and release and analysis of census results. There is a need to strengthen the organisational set up for conduct of Population Census. Conclusions and Recommendations The census of India is a massive exercise involving both the Central and the State Governments and is conducted through a vast army of enumerators, supervisors, technical personnel and other officials with the cooperation of the Indian population. More than 2 million persons are known to have been involved in the latest census operations. The exercise involves expenditure running into crores of rupees incurred by the Central and the State Governments by way of staff, office resources and infrastructure. It is the most elaborate data-gathering exercise in the country that can be undertaken only once in a decade and has to serve as a reliable data source providing vital benchmark data for a long time to come. Population Statistics as collected through the census would be a component of the set of ‘Core Statistics’ and the proposed high-level statistical policy-making body once established would formulate necessary guidelines as envisaged in its functions with regard to ‘Core Statistics’ including Population Census. It is therefore, essential that such a unique national operation should deliver results effectively, in time as well as meet the increasingly high expectations, being placed on it based on the high standards achieved in the past. After the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments passed by the Parliament in 1992, the Population Census data has immense potential to serve the planning and development data needs of thepanchayati raj institutions at the grass roots level. The process of democratic decentralisation set in motion by the above Acts of Parliament have transferred responsibility for 29 items including primary health care, primary education, family planning and minor developmental works to the elected local bodies. State Governments have begun the process of transferring funds to the panchayati raj Institutions and nagar palikas to enable them implement these activities. In this changed context, the census must respond with urgency to the data needs at the district, block, panchayat and village levels starting with the recently collected Census 2001 data. The Commission therefore recommends: (i) A timetable for the conduct of various activities of the Population Census right from preparatory work, enumeration work, data processing and tabulation should be finalised sufficiently well in advance and adhered to strictly. To begin with, the plan of release of tables of the Census 2001 must be drastically changed and the census organisation must give the highest priority to speedy data entry and processing of the Census 2001 to bring out all the final tables within a period of three years. Similar timetable should be prepared for all future decennial population censuses. For achieving this task, necessary help from the Public Sector Undertakings and the Private Sector should be taken. (ii) The census organisation must accord utmost priority for modernising the entire census operations by acquiring modern processing equipments and utilising the latest technological advancements in the field of information technology and printing for speedier processing and dissemination of census results. The highest priority should be given to tabulate as much data as possible at the district and block levels. These data should be made available to the rural and urban local authorities and district planning authorities without much delay so that programmes for local development are based on latest official data. Tabulation plans and data presentations should be from bottom up levels rather than attempting to provide an aggregated national picture. The usual sequence of data release is to produce key tables for all India and States first, followed by State tables and only at the end; the Primary Census Abstract (PCA) becomes available in published form. It is not necessary to stick to this pattern in the interest of providing early data at the local levels. (iii) There is a need to think afresh about the Post Enumeration Check (PEC) design by modifying the old sampling design in consultation with sampling experts. Further, to enhance the credibility and faith in census operations, the PEC should be entrusted to an independent agency or a group of agencies. (iv) There is a need to re-examine the issue of non-publication of information, such as cross-classification of data on religion, caste and language by literacy, work, migration, etc. in the census. Further, data on most of the social and cultural aspects should be provided at least at the district level. (v) The literacy data for age 15 years and above, which is the internationally accepted minimum age for which literacy data are published, should be released on priority basis. (vi) In the Census 2001 and Census 1991, the definition of economic activity has been expanded by including cultivation of certain crops for self-consumption. The Census 2001 tabulation plan must provide the details so that the contribution of additional economic activities included in the year 2001 is available separately to enable comparability with the results of the Census 1991. The Census should strive to adopt standardised concepts and definitions for comparability of data from other sources and to meet international standards. However, as far as possible, data according to the previously used concepts and definitions should also be made available separately, for comparison across the censuses. (vii) Considering the increasing functional requirements and growing expectations from census, the status of the Census Commissioner and of the statistical officers providing statistical support to the Census Commissioner should be upgraded. The Fifth Central Pay Commission has also recommended upgradation of post of Census Commissioner to the Additional Secretary level and one post of Joint Registrar General of India (RGI), to the level of Joint Secretary. It is, therefore, recommended that the Census Commissioner should be upgraded to the Chief Census Commissioner in the rank of Additional Secretary and supported by one Census Commissioner from Indian Statistical Service in the rank of Joint Secretary to provide the requisite technical support to the Chief Census Commissioner. (viii) The work of Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner should be separated. The work of the Registrar General of India should be to implement the provisions of Civil Registration Act and conduct of related surveys, while that of Census Commissioner should be to manage the census operations. Since the job of the RGI involves a lot of statistical expertise as surveys such as Sample Registration System, Causes of Death, etc. have to be conducted, the post of RGI should be manned by an officer at the Joint Secretary level from Indian Statistical Service. The RGI should function under the overall guidance of the Chief Census Commissioner. B. BASIC STATISTICS FOR LOCAL LEVEL DEVELOPMENT In the context of an increasing emphasis on decentralised planning in India, the need for collection of data at the district and lower levels has been emphasised in the past. Keeping in mind that some of the Indian States are larger than many of the countries of the world and the social and cultural heterogeneity of the Indian population, decentralised planning needs no emphasis. Till recently, there was very little democratic decentralisation and planning for development below the State level. However, with the passing of the 73rd & 74th Constitutional Amendments in 1992, the local bodies have been empowered to prepare and implement plans for economic development and social justice at the local levels. The centralised plans adopted so far have not been able to meet the basic needs and aspirations of the people. Hitherto, as there was little or no local level planning for provision of public goods and facilities, there seemed to be little or no need or demand for local level databases. Conditions have changed now and as the constitution has given powers to the local bodies for preparation of local level plans and implementation, it is becoming increasingly necessary to have decentralised databases on population size and its characteristics for micro level planning of various development programmes. This has necessitated development of databases systematically from below. The idea of developing databases required for planning and decision-making at below the State level is not a new one. The Planning Commission had set up a “Working Group on Districts planning” under the Chairmanship of Professor C.H. Hanumantha Rao, the then Member, Planning Commission in September, 1982. The Working Group in its report highlighted the need to identify the minimum information and data required for planning and decision-making at the district level and also provided an illustrative list of data/information useful for district planning. The Planning Commission issued a format “Database on Village Level Indicators” in February 1987. In September 1989, Planning Commission requested the State Governments to collect data at the village, block and district levels in prescribed, pre-coded schedule covering a very wide range of items. These data were to be fed into the District Information System of National Informatics Centre (DISNIC) for storage and retrieval on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the Planning Commission did not provide necessary explanatory notes regarding the concepts, definitions and sources of information for the DISNIC schedule and there were problems in collecting information on certain items of information provided in the schedule also. The whole exercise also did not consider in detail the organisational framework and training facilities for local level statistical functionaries, who would coordinate and maintain this data system. The issue of development of local level databases was discussed in the 9th Conference of Central and State Statistical Organisations (COCSSO) and the States pointed out the difficulties in the collection of the information in these prescribed proformae due to lack of proper guidelines and explanatory notes regarding concepts and definitions. Based on discussions in the COCSSO, Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) took up the matter with the Planning Commission and a small group headed by Secretary, Department of Statistics was asked to go into the details of the contents, coverage, definitions and concepts of various items in the DISNIC proformae. This Group made recommendations on the conceptual and organisational tasks involved in the construction of small area statistics as well as the currently feasible scope of information coverage under this system. The Department of Statistics constituted again an Expert Committee on Small Area Statistics in 1996 to analyse the data implications of 73rd and 74thAmendments and capability of the existing system to cope with the emerging requirements. The Committee submitted its report in April 1997 and made useful suggestions on the collection and compilation of village and urban municipality’s level information, which could be computerised by National Informatics Centre and transmitted from districts to State and National levels. Realising the importance of Small Area Statistics, the National Statistical Commission sponsored a study to examine the feasibility of using small area estimation techniques for estimating socio-economic variables at the district levels conducted by Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, in collaboration with National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO). The study used the data collected through the Population Census and that of 51st-54th Rounds of NSSO’s large-scale sample surveys. The study conducted in a limited period has suggested the usefulness of such methods in developing small area estimates of socio-economic variables. The study has also suggested establishment of a permanent research cell within the MoS&PI to carry out research in exploration of appropriate procedures for ‘small area’ estimation. Conclusions and Recommendations The Commission has taken cognisance of the fact that quite a large amount of work has already been done in the past two decades by various Working Groups, Study Groups and Committees constituted on the subject. However, implementation of these recommendations has not been taken seriously as a result of which even today no standardised system exists for collection of local level databases in the country and their aggregation at the block, district, State and National levels. These studies have in the past gone into the details of data items to be collected at the local levels. The Commission is of the view that there should be a set of core variables/indicators on which statistical data should be compiled and aggregated at appropriate levels, analysed and published at regular intervals of time. The sources of this data could be both the decadal population census and administrative records of the Government Departments. Further, additional data requirements for local level planning specific to local area also should be looked into and the local bodies should be given a free hand in deciding their data requirements, which otherwise could not be met through the standardised system. A suggestive list of core indicators is given below: (a) Population by age and sex at the lowest level of aggregation; village in rural areas, urban blocks; (b) Total number of households; (c) Availability of basic amenities: housing, potable drinking water, sanitary toilet facility, electricity, roads, transport facilities, educational institutions, medical facilities, telephone, post office, etc.; (d) Number of marriages: total, girls below age 18, boys below age 21; (e) Children in the school-going age 6-14: total, male, female; (f) Children attending school: total, male, female; (g) Live births: total, boys, girls and of order 3 and over; (h) Deaths: total, men women, infants (below one year of age) and maternal deaths/Crude Rate. In order to develop a system of collection and compilation of data on core variables and indicators and their aggregation at appropriate levels, combined efforts of the agencies in the Central Government (such as Planning Commission, Home Affairs, Health & Family Welfare, Education, Rural Development, Urban Development and Statistics), State Governments (such as Administrative Wings, Planning Departments and Directorates of Economics and Statistics, Local Affairs Departments) and local bodies are needed. The Commission therefore recommends: (i) The Population Census provides valuable information on a number of items/variables of the population from village level upward that is published in the District Census Handbooks. The primary census abstract for Census 2001 at each village and community development block level should be compiled at the earliest and made available to the panchayats and local bodies for planning and development. (ii) A minimum list of variables/indicators that should be collected at village level should be identified and a system of their compilation and aggregation should be established. Similarly, the variables and indicators required for aggregation at the district, State and National levels should also be identified. The community block should be the first level of aggregation for village level information. (iii) Blocks should have qualified statistical personnel (Block Statistical Assistant) with facility of a personal computer (PC), networked to district where data required at the district level would be aggregated. Such a statistical functionary already exists in many States. This statistical functionary should be trained in data entry, simple database systems, tabulations and data transmission to higher authorities and to panchayats below in appropriately summarised pre-designed format. (iv) The data compiled by all Government departments at the village and block level in respect of the identified variables/indicators should be supplied to the Block Statistical Assistant periodically, who will maintain the block level data and also disseminate the same to the panchayats/local bodies on one hand and to the district on the other hand. A system for ensuring a regular flow of information from all the Government departments to the block level statistical personnel should be established. (v) The additional data required to meet the specific requirements of local level planning may be decided and collected at the local level itself without any prescription from the district and State levels. (vi) A Committee of Experts comprising representatives from the concerned agencies should be constituted to review the efforts already made in the past by various Groups and Committees and suggest a minimum list of variables on which data need to be collected at the local level for rural and urban areas. The Committee should suggest a comprehensive scheme for collection of this dataset in pre-designed formats, data sources, periodicity of updating, aggregation level (block, district, State and National) for each variable, agencies responsible for collection, compilation and aggregation, and transmission of information from blocks downwards to panchayats/local bodies and upwards to district, State and National levels. The Committee should complete its work in a time bound manner and its recommendations after due examination should be implemented by the Government within the suggested time frame. (vii) For the variables, on which the data are not compiled and updated periodically based on regular administrative records or frequent sample surveys, but data on which are necessary for planning at district and lower levels, attempt should be made to estimate them through the use of small area estimation techniques, since the present large scale sample surveys usually provide estimates of various parameters only at State and National levels. Studies for developing appropriate small area estimation techniques for estimating socio-economic parameters at the disaggregated level should be taken up by the National Statistical Office. UNIFORM AREA CODES FOR DISTRICTS, VILLAGES AND URBAN BLOCKS For the Census 2001, a system of Permanent Location Numbers has been adopted by assigning a Permanent Location Code to each village within State or UT. Codes for States, districts and urban blocks were also provided. Though the Permanent Location Numbers developed for Census 2001 take care of a permanent coding structure for rural areas, sufficient care is to be taken for developing a similar coding structure for urban areas due to frequent changes in the boundaries of the urban blocks. It is suggested that for urban areas, permanent wards consisting of permanent blocks should be formed through notification. Any change in the jurisdiction of the ward should not cut across blocks. These codes should include, as a part, eventually geo-codes, which should be sufficient to locate them in a map. The Commission therefore recommends: (i) Attempt should be made to develop uniform area codes for districts, blocks and villages at the National level, which would facilitate permanent and unique identification of every village and urban block in the country. These codes should include, as a part, necessary geo-codes, which should be sufficient to locate them in a map. (ii) Village level digitised maps showing data on minimum variables and indicators can be produced with the presently available satellite image based mapping procedures. Geo-codes should be developed on the basis of these base maps. The geo-coding of the primary unit areas such as villages and urban blocks within such a map can be taken up in consultation with agencies such as Indian Space Research Organisation, Census Commissioner, Surveyor General of India and Anthropological Survey of India. HEALTH AND FAMILY WELFARE STATISTICS In the context of data requirements for health planning, health-related data for any population should provide insights into following areas: (a) Demographic data: population by age and sex, rural/urban classification, geographical distribution, occupational classification, literacy, religion, marital status, migration, etc.; (b) Vital statistics: birth and death rates, infant mortality rates, life tables, general fertility rates, etc.; (c) Diseases: mortality rates by age and cause of death, morbidity data by age, sex, prevalence of communicable diseases, deliveries and statistics of anti-natal and post-natal care; (d) Facilities: hospitals, dispensaries, clinics, nursing homes, diagnostic centres, laboratories, equipments – X-ray and other diagnostic equipments, ambulances, beds, etc.; (e) Manpower: doctors, specialists and practitioners in allopathic, homeopathy and other Indian systems of medicine, nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians other supporting staff (their number, qualification, geographical distribution, availability per unit of population); (f) Finance: GNP, Government Revenue and Expenditure, allocation for health, budget estimates, sources of health finance, expenditure on health by voluntary agencies and other NGOs, private expenditure on health, etc.