Economics for every one: making sense of census

Conducted every 10 years, the census is the largest information collection and faces big challenges

July 16, 2014 12:43 IST | India Infoline News Service

The motto of census 2011 was 'Our Census, Our future'.

15th Indian census 

Indian population increased to 1.21 billion with a decadal growth of 17.64%.

The population of the country as per the provisional figures of Census 2011 is 1210.19 million of which 623.7 million (51.54%) are males and 586.46 million (48.46%) are females.

The population of India is almost equal to the combined population of U.S.A., Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan put together- the population of these six countries totals 1214.3 million!

 Adult literacy rate increased to 74.04% with a decadal growth of 9.21%.

Spread across 29 states and 7 union territories.

The census covered 640 districts, 5,767 tehsils, 7,933 towns and more than 600,000 villages.

 A total of 2.7 million officials visited households in 7,933 towns and 600,000 villages, classifying the population according to gender, religion, education and occupation.

 The cost of the exercise was approximately  2200 crore (US$370 million) – this comes to less than $0.5 per person, well below the estimated world average of $4.6 per person.

Census data was collected in 16 languages and training manual was prepared in 18 languages.

Conducted every 10 years, the census is the largest information collection and faces big challenges considering India's vast area and diversity of cultures and opposition from the manpower involved. The Indian Census is the largest single source of a variety of statistical information on different characteristics of the people of India. With a history of more than 130 years, this reliable, time tested exercise has been bringing out a veritable wealth of statistics every 10 years, beginning from 1872 when the census is conducted in India across the length and breadth of the country.

This is the only source of primary data in the village, town and ward level, it provides valuable information for planning and formulation policies for Central and the State Governments and is widely used by National and International Agencies, Scholars, business people, industrialists, and many more. To scholars and researchers in demography, economics, anthropology, sociology, statistics and many other disciplines, the Indian Census has been a fascinating source of data. The rich diversity of the people of India is truly brought out by the decennial census which has become one of the tools to understand and study India.

The word Census

A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. It is the complete enumeration of the population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common censuses include agriculture, business, and traffic censuses. Thus, censuses of population are taken by governments to determine the number of inhabitants in their country and various characteristics of the population. The United Nations defines the essential features of population and housing censuses as "individual enumeration, universality within a defined territory, simultaneity and defined periodicity", and recommends that population censuses be taken at least every 10 years. United Nations recommendations also cover census topics to be collected, official definitions, classifications and other useful information to coordinate international practice.

The word is of Latin origin; during the Roman Republic, the census was a list that kept track of all adult males fit for military service. The modern census is essential to international comparisons of any kind of statistics, and censuses collect data on many attributes of a population, not just how many people there are, although population estimates remain an important function of a census.

A census can be contrasted with sampling in which information is obtained only from a subset of a population, sometimes as an intercensal estimate. Modern census data are commonly used for research, business marketing, and planning, and as a baseline for sampling surveys. Census counts are necessary to adjust samples to be representative of a population by weighting them as is common in opinion polling. Similarly, stratification requires knowledge of the relative sizes of different population strata which can be derived from census enumerations. In some countries, census data are used to apportion electoral representation.

Historical Background

Censuses have been taking place for thousands of years all over the world, with the first known census undertaken nearly 6000 years ago by the Babylonians in 3800 BC. There are records to suggest that this census was undertaken every 6 or 7 years and counted the number of people and livestock, as well as quantities of butter, honey, milk, wool and vegetables.

The oldest existing census in the world comes from China during the Han Dynasty. This census was taken in the year 2 A.D. and is considered to be quite accurate. It recorded the population as 59.6 million, the world’s largest population.

The census was a key element of the Roman system of administration and was carried out every five years and provided a register of citizens and their property. The word census originates in fact from ancient Rome, from the Latin word ‘censere’ which means ‘estimate’.

The Bible also relates several census stories - the Book of Numbers is named after the counting of the Israelite population during the Flight from Egypt, there are references to King David performing a census and of King Solomon having all foreigners in Israel, and of course the best known reference is to a Roman census when the birth of Jesus occurred in Bethlehem because Mary and Joseph had travelled there to be enumerated in the census.

The most famous historic census in Europe is the Domesday Book which was undertaken by William the Conqueror in 1086.

In the 15th century, the Inca Empire had a unique way to record census information as they did not have a written language. Census information was recorded on quipus which were strings from llama or alpaca hair or cotton cords with numeric and other values encoded by knots in a base-10 positional system.

India - Background

The oldest recorded census in India is thought to have occurred around 300 BCE during the reign of the Emperor Chandragupta Maurya under the leadership of Kautilya or Chanakya. 

The Indian Census is the most credible source of information on Demography (Population characteristics), Economic Activity, Literacy and Education, Housing & Household Amenities, Urbanisation, Fertility and Mortality, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Language, Religion, Migration, Disability and many other socio-cultural and demographic data since 1872.

The Delimitation/reservation of Constituencies- Parliamentary/Assembly/Panchayats and other Local Bodies is also done on the basis of the demographic data thrown up by the Census. Census is the basis for reviewing the country's progress in the past decade, monitoring the ongoing Schemes of the Government and most importantly, plan for the future. That is why the Slogan is “Our Census - Our Future".

The responsibility of conducting the decennial Census rests with the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India under Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. It may be of historical interest that though the population census of India is a major administrative function; the Census Organisation was set up on an ad-hoc basis for each Census till the 1951 Census. The Census Act was enacted in 1948 to provide for the scheme of conducting population census with duties and responsibilities of census officers. The Government of India decided in May 1949 to initiate steps for developing systematic collection of statistics on the size of population, its growth, etc., and established an organization in the Ministry of Home Affairs under Registrar General and ex-Officio Census Commissioner, India. This organisation was made responsible for generating data on population statistics including Vital Statistics and Census. Later, this office was also entrusted with the responsibility of implementation of Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 in the country.

The Census Commissioners from 1881 Census to 1941 Census and thereafter Registrar General and Census Commissioner [continued in the last pages - A detailed history of evolution of the census process is provided towards the end of this article]

National Population Register (NPR)

The NPR would be a Register of usual residents of the country. The NPR is a comprehensive identity database that would help in better targeting of the benefits and services under the Government schemes/programmes, improve planning and help strengthen security of the country. This is being done for the first time in the country.

2011 census of India

The 15th Indian census was conducted in two phases, house listing and population enumeration. House listing phase began on 1 April 2010 and involved collection of information about all buildings. Information for National Population Register was also collected in the first phase, which will be used to issue a 12-digit unique identification number to all registered Indians by Unique Identification Authority of India. The second population enumeration phase was conducted between 9 to 28 February 2011. Census has been conducted in India since 1872 and 2011 marks the first time biometric information was collected. C. Chandramauli is the Registrar General and commissioner of 2011 Indian census. The census was conducted in two phases. The first house listing phase began on 1 April 2010 and involved collection of data about all the buildings and census houses. Information for National population register was also collected in the first phase. The second population enumeration phase was conducted from 9–28 February 2011 all over the country. Information on castes was included in the census following demands from several ruling coalition leaders supported by opposition parties.

Let us see some of the key highlights of the census 2011


Persons 1,21,01,93,422
  POPULATION Males 62,37,24,248

Females 58,64,69,174
DECADAL Absolute %age

Persons 18,14,55,986 17.64

Males 9,15,01,158 17.19

Females 8,99,54,828 18.12
DENSITY OF POPULATION (per sq. km.) 382
SEX RATIO (females per 1000 males)  940

POPULATION IN   Absolute %age to total population
THE AGE GROUP 0-6 Persons 15,87,89,287 13.12

Males 8,29,52,135 13.3

Females 7,58,37,152 12.93
Absolute Literacy rate
Persons 77,84,54,120 74.04
Males 44,42,03,762 82.14
Females 33,42,50,358 65.46

Share of children in the age group 0-6 years to total population, India: 2001 and 2011

Sex-ratio in India 940 
Child (0-6yrs.) sex-ratio 914
Highest sex-ratio in state Kerala (1084)
Lowest sex-ratio in UTs Daman & Diu (618)
Highest child(0-6) sex-ratio in state Mizoram (971)
Lowest child(0-6) sex-ratio in state Haryana (830)


An analysis of the census shows the Census 2011 shows some interesting facts

*The population of India has increased by more than 181 million during the decade 2001-2011.

*Percentage growth in 2001-2011 is 17.64; males 17.19 and females 18.12.

*2001-2011 is the first decade (with the exception of 1911-1921) which has actually added lesser population compared to the previous decade.

*Uttar Pradesh (199.5 million) is the most populous State in the country followed by Maharashtra with 112 million.

*The percentage decadal growth rates of the six most populous States have declined during 2001-2011 compared to 1991-2001:

-Uttar Pradesh (25.85% to 20.09%)

-Maharashtra (22.73% to 15.99%)

-Bihar (28.62% to 25.07%)

-West Bengal (17.77 % to 13.93%)

-Andhra Pradesh (14.59% to 11.10%)

-Madhya Pradesh (24.26% to 20.30%)

*During 2001-2011, as many as 25 States/UTs with a share of about 85% of the country's population registered an annual growth rate of less than 2% as compared to, 15 States/UTs with a share of about 42% during the period 1991-2001.

*15 States/UTs have grown by less than 1.5 per cent per annum during 2001-2011, while the number of such States/UTs was only 4 during the previous decade.

*The total number of children in the age-group 0-6 is 158.8 million (-5 million since 2001)

*Twenty States and Union Territories now have over one million children in the age group 0-6 years. On the other extreme, there are five States and Union Territories in the country that are yet to reach the one hundred thousand mark.

*Uttar Pradesh (29.7 million), Bihar (18.6 million), Maharashtra (12.8 million), Madhya Pradesh (10.5 million) and Rajasthan (10.5 million) constitute 52% children in the age group of 0-6 years.

*Population (0-6 years) 2001-2011 registered minus (-) 3.08 percent growth with minus (-) 2.42 for males and -3.80 for females.

*The proportion of Child Population in the age group of 0-6 years to total population is 13.1 percent while the corresponding figure in 2001 was 15.9 percent. The decline has been to the extent of 2.8 points.

*Overall sex ratio at the national level has increased by 7 points to reach 940 at Census 2011 as against 933 in Census 2001. This is the highest sex ratio recorded since Census 1971 and a shade lower than 1961. Increase in sex ratio is observed in 29 States/UTs.

*Three major States (J&K, Bihar & Gujarat) have shown decline in sex ratio as compared to Census 2001.

*Kerala with 1084 has the highest sex ratio followed by Puducherry with 1038, Daman & Diu has the lowest sex ratio of 618.

*Child sex ratio (0-6 years) is 914. Increasing trend in the child sex ratio (0-6) seen in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram and A&N Islands. In all remaining 27 States/UTs, the child sex ratio show decline over Census 2001.

Worsening Child Sex Ratio (0-6 years)

The Child Sex Ratio stands for the number of girls per 1000 boys in the age group 0-6 years. The CSR has continuously declined from 976 in 1961 to 914 in 2011. It should certainly be a cause for concern to our leaders of society and the government

*Mizoram has the highest child sex ratio (0-6 years) of 971 followed by Meghalaya with 970. Haryana is at the bottom with ratio of 830 followed by Punjab with 846.
*Literacy rate has gone up from 64.83 per cent in 2001 to 74.04 per cent in 2011 showing an increase of 9.21 percentage points.
*Percentage growth in literacy during 2001-2011 is 38.82; males: 31.98% & females: 49.10%.
*Literates constitute 74 per cent of the total population aged seven and above and illiterates form 26 per cent.

2001-2011 is the first decade (with the exception of 1911-1921) when the absolute increase in population over the ten-year period has been less than in the previous decade.
The growth rate of population has fallen significantly, perhaps for the first time, in the eight Empowered Action Group (EAG) states (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand) that have traditionally reported higher than average rates of fertility and population growth.

- India’s population in 1901 was about 238.4 million, which has increased by more than four times in 110 years to reach a population of 1,210 million (or 121 crore) in 2011.

- The population of India has increased by more than 181 million during the decade 2001-2011. The absolute addition is slightly lower than the population of Brazil, the fifth most populous country in the world.

- India is the second largest country in the world in terms of population after China (1.34 billion). The three most populous countries in the world, China (1.34 billion), India (1.21 billion) and USA (308.7 million) together constitute more than 40% of the total population of the world.

- The decadal growth of population for India as a whole has declined from 23.87% in 1981-91 to 21.54% in 1991-2001 to 17.64% in 2001-11. Decadal Growth Rate of population during 2001 -11 of the six most populous States, (i.e., Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh), have all declined during 2001-11 compared to the previous decade (1991-2001).

- The growth rate of population in rural and urban areas was 12.18% and 31.80% respectively. Bihar (23.90%) exhibited the highest decadal growth rate in rural population.

-  Of the total population, 623.7 million are males and 586.5 million are females. Population (0-6 years) 2001-2011 registered minus (-) 3.08 % growth with minus (-) 2.42 females and –3.80 for females.

-  The combined population of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra is bigger than that of the US.

- While Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Puducherry have the highest population growth rate of about 55 %, Nagaland has the lowest -0.47 %.

- The density of population is highest in Delhi, followed by Chandigarh.

Five Largest Populous State of the country 
Uttar Pradesh   19,95,81,477
Maharashtra 11,23,72,972 
Bihar           10,38,04,637
West Bengal     9,13,47,736
Andhra Pradesh  8,46,65,533
Highest Populous State  :  Uttar Pradesh
Five Least Populous State of the country 
Lakshadweep 64429
Daman & Diu  2,42,911
D. & N. Haveli 3,42,853 
A. & N. Islands 3,79,944
 Sikkim 6,07,688
Least Populous UTs   Lakshadweep

The gap between India, the country with the second largest population in the world and China, the country with the largest population in the world has narrowed from 238 million in 2001 to nearly 131 million in 2011.

The gap between India and the United States of America, which has the third largest population, has now widened to about 902 million from 741 million in 2001.

In 1950, China with 22 % share of the world population was the world’s most populous country, followed by India, which had a share of 14.2 %.

Density of Population

Density of Population’ is defined as the number of persons per square kilometre. It is an important index of population which shows concentration of population in a particular area.

As per the provisional population totals of Census 2011, the population density of India has gone up to 382 persons per square kilometre from 325 persons per square kilometre in 2001. On an average, 57 more people inhabit every square kilometre in the country as compared to a decade ago.

The density of population is highest in Delhi, followed by Chandigarh

The Eastern region has the highest density of 625 persons per sq. Km. and the North Eastern region has the lowest density of 176 persons per sq. Km. Central region occupies the second highest place in density with 417 followed by Southern region (397), Western region (344) and Northern region (267) respectively. 

The demographic Dividend and the changing age structure in India

India’s age structure is undergoing rapid changes. It will have definite implications for the economy and society. The age structure transition typically has two phases. In the first phase of the transition, there will be a bulge in the working age group popularly known as the demographic dividend stage. The demographic divided is a shorter duration in the history of any nation. The span of the dividend varies according to the pace of the fertility transition. The second phase of age structure transition occurs with the ageing of the population. The proportion of elderly is likely to go up at this stage.

Demographic dividend refers to a change in the age distribution of population from child ages to adult ages. It leads to larger proportion of population in the working age group compared to younger and old age groups. Apparently, given the diversity in the fertility transition in India, the demographic dividend is likely to continue as it shifts from one state to another based on the pace of demographic changes in the respective states. It is generally argued that the demographic change in India is opening up new economic opportunities. There is generally high optimism both based on the experience of many other countries and from India that demographic changes will take the country to newer economic heights. The 2011 census results show that there has been significant inflow of migration to many southern states in India. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are attracting huge inflow of migrants from other states. In these states, the enumerated population has been far higher than the projected population. Perhaps, it points towards a replacement migration taking place into these states. The replacement migration refers to migration occurring as a result of age structure changes. With the demographic and age structure changes, there will be scarcity of labour particularly in the unskilled sector. This labour has to be replaced from other places with abundance of labour due to lack of any significant demographic changes. In the context of Western countries, the replacement migration mainly came from poor developing countries. On the contrary, India is able to take care of the replacement migration from within due to large diversity in the nature of demographic transition.

As already pointed out, the demographic dividend is of a shorter duration for any country and eventually the nation will move into an ageing population. Although not immediate, change in the age structure from young to old are also accompanied by several social changes with considerable implications on any nation. According to some reports, the size of the Indian elderly (60 years and above) is expected to triple in the next four decades from 92 million to 316 million, constituting around 20 percent of the population by the middle of the century. As the socio-economic processes associated with ageing are complex, the country needs to plan and gear up well in advance to face the challenge.

In a nutshell, demographic and age structure changes are inevitable and generally contribute positively to the nation. The demographic changes are also accompanied by considerable social and economic changes. It is important that the nation is prepared to take care of such rapid changes. In the future, the success of a nation will critically depend upon its ability to address such sweeping demographic changes effectively though policies and programmes. India is on the course of rapid demographic changes. Hence preparedness in advance might provide dividends in the future.

Density of population, India: 1901-2011

Population Growth, GDP and Foodgrain Production, India: 1950-1951 to 2010-2011 2 Analysis shows that on the economic front, the GDP at factor cost at constant prices has grown annually by more than 10.2% during 2001-10.

During the same period, the food grain production has reached 218.2 million tonnes in 2009-10 from 196.8 million tonnes in 2000-01, showing an annual exponential growth rate of food grain production during 2001-2010 at 1.15%, still a shade lower than the population growth rate during 2001-2011. However, if the targeted improvement in food-grain production of 8.5%, as envisaged in the Union Budget document 2011-12, is actually achieved for the two successive years of 2010-11 and 2011-12, the average annual growth in food-grain production for 2001-12 would touch about 1.5%, making it somewhat similar to the growth in population during this period. However, a comparison with other countries of the world, in terms of the Human Development Index, Per Capita GDP and 2010 Global Hunger Index (ranked 67 from 65 slipped) shows India has a long way to go.

Sex Ratio (No of women/1000 males) After 1971 Census, trends were not consistent, showing increase in one decade and decline in the next. However, it was hovering around 930. The sex ratio as per provisional results is the highest since 1971 and a shade below the level of 1961.

Trends in sex ratio in States and UTs: 2001-2011

As per Census 2011, Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar and Gujarat showed a decline in sex ratio while 29 states showed an increase. 

The top three States recording the highest value of overall sex ratio are neighbours located in the southern part of India namely Kerala (1084), Tamil Nadu (995), and Andhra Pradesh (992). Among the UTs, the top three are Puducherry (1038), Lakshadweep (946) and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands (878). Figure 20 presents sex ratio in the States and Union Territories at the 2011 Census.

The lowest sex ratio among the States has been recorded in Haryana (877), Jammu & Kashmir (883) and Sikkim (889). Among the UTs the lowest sex ratio has been returned in Daman & Diu (618), Dadra & Nagar Haveli (775) and Chandigarh (818).

Sex Ratio, India: 1901-2011

Sex Ratio: India Vs Selected Countries3

Any one above age 7 who can read and write in any language with an ability to understand was considered a literate. In censuses before 1991, children below the age 5 were treated as illiterates. The literacy rate taking the entire population into account is termed as "crude literacy rate", and taking the population from age 7 and above into account is termed as "effective literacy rate". Effective literacy rate increased to a total of 74.04% with 82.14% of the males and 65.46% of the females being literate.

Prior to all the census data reported up to 1981, it was customary to work out the literacy rate taking into account the total population. However, as literacy rate is more meaningful if the sub-population in the age group 0-6 is excluded from the total population, it was decided in 1991 to calculate literacy rate for the population seven years and above. The same concept has been retained in all Censuses since 1991.
The literacy rate taking into account the total population in the denominator has now been termed as ‘crude literacy rate’, while the literacy rate calculated taking into account the 7 and above population in the denominator is called the effective literacy rate. The formula for computing crude literacy rate and effective literacy rate are as follows:

Literacy Rate: Trends

S.No. Census Year Total (%) Male (%) Female (%)
1 1901 5.35 9.83 0.60
2 1911 5.92 10.56 1.05
3 1921 7.16 12.21 1.81
4 1931 9.50 15.59 2.93
5 1941 16.10 24.90 7.30
6 1951 16.67 24.95 9.45
7 1961 24.02 34.44 12.95
8 1971 29.45 39.45 18.69
9 1981 36.23 46.89 24.82
10 1991 42.84 52.74 32.17
11 2001 64.83 75.26 53.67
12 2011 74.04 82.14 65.46

The effective literacy rate has gone up from 64.83% in 2001 to 74.04% in 2011 showing an increase of 9.21%. 

The effective literacy rate figures for males and females are 82.14 and 65.46% respectively. Thus three-fourth of the population of aged 7 years and above is literate in the country. Four out of every five males and two out of every three females in the country are literate.

The country has continued its march in improving literacy rate by recording a jump of 9.21 %age points during 2001-2011. However, efforts are still required to achieve the target of 85 % set by the Planning Commission to be achieved by the year 2011-12.

An extremely positive development in the present decade is that the gap of 21.59 %age points recorded between male and female literacy rates in 2001 Census has reduced to 16.68 %age points in 2011. Though the target set for the year 2011-2012 by the Planning Commission of reducing the gap to 10 %age points has not been achieved, yet the 5 %age point reduction is a welcome step in that direction.

Decadal Literacy Growth 2001-20011

Literacy rate has gone up from 64.83 % in 2001 to 74.04 % in 2011 showing an increase of 9.21 %age points.

%age growth in literacy during 2001-2011 is 38.82; males: 31.98% & females: 49.10%.

The state of Kerala has the highest literacy rate 93.11%, whereas Bihar has the lowest 63.82%.


India has witnessed remarkable progress in spread of literacy. Compared to barely 18 percent of India’s population recorded as literate in the first Census after Independence, according to the 2011 Census, that proportion has gone up to 74 percent. The achievement among males has been from 27 to 82 percent in the 60 years. From less than one in 10 women counted as literate in 1951, today two out of three women are enumerated as literate

Some of the positive developments include
Literacy rate has shown an increase from 64.83% in 2001 to 74.04% in 2011showing an increase of 9.21 %age points.

Sex Ration, an indicator of the well-being of women in a society, at the national level increased by seven points to reach 940 as provisional data for Census 2011 against 933 in Census 2001. This is the highest sex ratio at the national level since Census 1971.

The %age decadal growth rates of the six most populous States have declined during 2001-2011 as compared to 1991-2001. The graph of population growth in Uttar Pradesh shows a decline from 25.85% to 20.09%, in Maharashtra from 22.73% to 15.99%, Bihar from 28.62% to 25.07%, West Bengal from 17.77% to 13.93%, Andhra Pradesh from 14.59% to 11.10% and Madhya Pradesh from 24.26% to 20.30%. This trend shows although there has been an increase in the population, the growth has been less.

2001-2011 is the first decade (with the exception of 1911-1921) when population has grown less than in previous decade

With the exception of Jammu & Kashmir, where the %age share of children in total population has increased by 1.4 points, all other States and Union Territories have shown a fall in the proportion. The highest decline in %age terms has been noticed in Sikkim, with Uttar Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh taking the next two spots. It is significant that the decline in proportion of child population in the age group of 0-6 years has been seen in all EAG States- Uttar Pradesh (-4.1), Uttarakhand (-2.9), Bihar (-2.3); Jharkhand (-2.5), Rajasthan (-3.5), Madhya Pradesh (-3.3), Chhattisgarh (-3.0) and Orissa (-2.6). In 10 States and Union Territories, the decline is below 2 points; in 14 States and Union Territories it is between 2 and 3 points and in 10 States and Union Territories, it is 3 points or more. This is definitely a positive indicator of fertility decline and augurs well for the future.

In terms of population density, while the absolute increase is indeed a matter of concern, the positive feature is that the rate of increase has slowed down and has shown a sharp decline in the last decade.

Indian Census History

The East India Company was anxious, soon after the Restoration in England, to obtain reliable estimates of population in its Indian settlements (for the purpose of defense, collection of revenues and taxes and employment of population in profitable trades and services). Moreland, the famous historian estimated the total number of Indians in 1600. For numerical basis of calculation he based his studies, in the south, on the strength of the armed forces and in the north on the land under cultivation on both of which subjects contemporary figures were available. Indirect estimates had been made, for example, of Fort St. George, Madras, for 1639 and 1648 by comparing revenues in 1639 and 1648, and for 1646 by adding reported famine deaths of 1647 to the estimate of 1648. Captain Thomas Bowrey who arrived in Madras in 1669 made an estimate of the Fort in 1670. A Dr. John Fryer was appointed surgeon for duty at Bombay at the end of 1672 shortly after he had taken the degree of M.B. at Cambridge. He was evidently expected to make statistical enquiries, for his estimates of Masulipattam, Fort St. George, Madras and Bombay. Inquiries in the 17th century like Sir William Langhorn's, Captain Willshaw's or Elihu Yale's, were in the nature of deductions based on items like revenue or quit-rent. A Census is mentioned having been taken in 1716 of Bombay, probably embracing only the Fort and a portion of the Island. The unsettled condition of the country, following the disintegration of the Moghul empire, did not offer favorable conditions for systematic estimates of population. An estimate made of the company's possessions as late as the 1780's was discounted by H.T. Colebrooke. In 1798 the Collectors of Bengal and Bihar districts furnished grounds for estimating 22 millions, but Sir William Jones, the great Orientalist, in his preface to the translation of Al Sirajiyah, hinted at a higher figure. H.T. Colebrooke, in Chapter II devoted to 'population' of his Remarks on the Husbandry and Internal Commerce of Bengal (1794) has gone on record as a pioneer in the application of sample surveys when he observed, "First-An actual assessment (the result of an official enquiry in the province of Puriniya) found 80,914 husbandmen holding leases, and 22,324 artificers paying ground rent, in 2,784 villages (mauzas) upon 2,531 square miles. Allowing five to a family this gives more than 203 to a square mile; and for the whole of the Dewani provinces, at that proportion, it gives a population of 30,291,051; or including Benares, 32,987,500; since the area of Bengal and Bihar is 149,217 square miles, and, with Benares, not less than 162,500. But it must be remembered..." with which he goes on to make meticulous reservations, for and against both lower and higher figures, which set up his methodology as a model for Dr. Francis Buchanan-Hamilton to copy in 1808, when he began his celebrated statistical survey of districts of Bengal and Bihar.

Sir James Renell had in the meantime completed his stupendous surveys, which helped to relate population to defined territories. Regretting that 'in India, no bills of mortality, nor registers of births, marriages and burials, afford data for calculation', H.T. Colebrooke built up an ingenious system of self-checking inferences based variously on area, density, sample counts, persons per household leases, ground rent, land under cultivation, area under each tillage, rent-rolls, and the yield and consumption of articles like cereals, pulses and salt. Buchanan-Hamilton applied Colebrooke's method and in several cases improved upon it by resorting to extensive sample counts-his empirical way of discriminating between samples is most instructive-and his accounts of the northern districts of Bengal contain some of the most reliable population estimates for the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Equally penetrating and valid are his comments "On the population of the district and the causes which operate on its increase or diminution."

The Government emphasised the importance of population data and set up a Population Data Committee in 1944 to examine and advise the Government of India on the available data relating to growth of population. This committee comprised of Mr. W.M. Yeatts, the Census Commissioner of India in 1941 as Chairman and Sir Theodore Gregory, Professor P.C. Mahalnobis, Professor K.B. Madhava and Dr. K.C. K.E. Raja as members. The Committee paid special emphasis to the statistical problems relating to the age tabulation of the 1941 census which could not be completed because of financial stringency caused by the Second World War, and also made recommendations for the use of sampling methods for the estimation of vital statistics rates. In particular, they pointed out the use which could be made of the household lists prepared at the census as a sampling frame for obtaining demographic data and recommended their safe keeping. 

In 1949, the Government of India decided to initiate steps for improvement of Registration of Vital Statistics and further decided to establish a single organisation at the Centre in the Ministry of Home Affairs under the Registrar General and ex-officio Census Commissioner for India to deal with Vital Statistics and Census.

The first census after Independence was taken in 1951. The report of 1951 census by the Census Commissioner for India was a complete departure from the pattern of previous census reports. This report attempted to interpret the past changes in the size and structure of India's population and to point out their implications for the level of living of the population. The report also made a plea for a reduction in the birth rate of the country. The 1951 census also attempted for the first time in the history of Indian census to make an assessment of the accuracy of the census count by a re-check in the field. The demands of the various Government Departments, Planning Commission and various Demographic Bodies for the collection of the detailed statistics on population necessitated the enlargement of the 1961 census questionnaire and a number of cross tabulations of data. As many as 1400 publications were planned and printed. A novel feature of 1961 census was the undertaking of a large number of ancillary studies relating to rural craft, fairs and festivals and ethnographic surveys. The Census Organisation, therefore, became the repository of a wealth of sociological information relating to the country. Special Socio-economic Surveys were undertaken in a large number of villages. For the first time in the history of Census of India, a Census Atlas was planned at the State level as well as at India level. An attempt was also made for the mechanical tabulation of some of the data and consequently a moderate complement of mechanical data equipments like, Key punches, Verifiers, Sorters, Tabulators, Reproducers were obtained and household schedules of the 1961 census were tabulated on the mechanical equipments.

The schedules of 1971 Census were further modified to suit the needs of the Govt., Planning Commission, various Demographic Bodies and Scholars. The new features of 1971 Census were (i) an attempt was made to collect data on current fertility, (ii) migrational particulars with reference to place of last residence were collected which yielded valuable and realistic data on internal migration, (iii) considerable departure was made in respect of economic questions. The main activity of a person was ascertained according as he spent his time basically as a worker producing goods and services or as a non-worker. A new concept of 'Standard urban Area' was developed for the tabulation of certain urban data. Encouraged with the experience of 1961 Census it was again proposed to have a number of studies ancillary to 1971 Census. It was proposed to have a restudy of a number of villages and also to have intensive studies of about 200 towns and ethnographic studies of selected communities. Besides there would be one special study at the choice of the Director of Census Operations in each State.

The results of each census have been published in great detail. The general reports which summarise and analyse the results have often been exceptionally scholarly. It was only in 1941 that the census publications could not be as complete as usual because of the limitations imposed by the Second World War. The Indian Censuses were remarkable not only for the information they reveal but for the special obstacles they had had to overcome. Imagine a massive, diversified sub-continent with hundreds of millions of people nearly all of whom are illiterate, most of them rural and some isolated in jungles or mountains, some harbouring superstitions inimicals to census co-operation, some split by political and religious rift and some pure savages of stone age. One can imagine all this and the difficulty of taking a census becomes apparent.

Modern techniques of postal enumeration cannot be used and the time-tested slow but sure method of each individual being enumerated separately is all that is possible. This involves the recruitment and training of a vast army of enumerators whose number can only be reckoned in thousands. The social and cultural complexities create special problems.

The Indian Census has not been a mere statistical

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