Indian Official Statistics: Part VI (b)


  1. Population Statistics
    1. Census
      1.                                                       viii.      Against only one schedule used in all earlier censuses, there were three, viz. the house list, the Household Schedule and the Individual Slip, in the 1961 census. Besides recording the number of census houses in the house list, information was recorded on the purpose for which the house was used, e.g., dwelling shop, shop cum dwelling, business, factory, workshop, school, or either institution, etc., or lying vacant, the predominant material of the roof and the wall, and so on. The introduction of the household schedule was another innovation of the 1961 census. Part I of the schedule was related to the agricultural holding of the household and the household industry, if any. Part II was meant to give information about the members of the household and was to be compiled from the individual slip relating to the members of the household. The three schedules were used in the 1971 and 1981 censuses as well. But in 1971 as special Establishment Schedule was attached to the house list. Data on establishments were collected in 1961 also, when by an establishment was meant a place where good were produced or manufactured, not solely for domestic consumption, or where servicing and/or repairing was done-such as a factory, a workshop or a household industry. But the 1971 census also covered establishments where retail or wholesale business was carried on, or commercial services were rendered, or an office, public or private, or a place of entertainment, or a place where educational, religious or social services were rendered.  It was necessary that in each such place one or more people should be actually working. The Establishment Schedule was replaced by the Enterprise List in 1981 census. An enterprise is an undertaking in the production and/or distribution of goods and/or services not for the purpose of own consumption. The activities if an enterprise may be carried on in a single census house, in more than one census house or in the open. The data on enterprises in 1981 were thus expected to be comparable to those on establishments in 1971, provided the tabulation on enterprises located in census houses was done separately from that on enterprises carried on in the open.
      2.                                                           ix.      Another innovation introduced in the 1961 census was a complete count of scientific and technically trained people in India. Particulars regarding them were collected in a separate schedule meant to be filled in by the people themselves. In the subsequent censuses, there has been a ‘Degree-holder and Technical Personnel Card’ so that this count now covers all graduates and post-graduates as also those with a technical diploma or a certificate from an Industrial Training Institute.
      3.                                                             x.      The census data is presented in several series of publications. Series I presents all-India tables and reports and is brought out by the RGI. The most important of the publications in this series are the General Report, the General Population Tables and the Economic Tables. Besides this all-India series, there is a series for each State (Union Territory) covering the census publications of that State.
      4.                                                           xi.      Criticism and suggestions for improvement:
        1. In order that the census data may be strictly comparable, it is desirable that the choice of reference date be the same for each census year and that the enumeration be strictly synchronous. However, although the reference date in each recent decennial census has been the 1st of March of the census year, there has been considerable variation in this regard in the history of Indian census-taking. For instance, in 1881 it was the 17th of February while in 1921 it was the 18th of March. Even as recently as 1971, the reference date was the 1st of April since the enumeration could not be undertaken in February-March because of the General Elections. Again, in some censuses some parts if the country had to be excluded from the census or the enumeration postponed to a later date. In 1981, for example, no census could be taken in Assam owing to the “anti-foreigner” agitation, while in the case of Jammu & Kashmir because of the heavy snowfall in February the enumeration period had to be taken as 20 April to 5 May with 6 May as the reference date. In the case of Jammu & Kashmir, no census could be taken in 1991 because of the activities of secessionist militants.
        2. The Indian census has in recent times provided for a post-enumeration sample check. This reveals that some people are totally left out of the count while some others may be counted twice. The net effect is an under-estimation, estimated at 1.4% for the 1951, 0.7% for the 1961 and 1.8% for the 1971 census. This is, however, not a serious defect because even the US census, with its elaborate machinery, involves a net undercount of 1% to 2%.
        3. What is more serious is that concepts and definitions are often changed from one census to another, making comparison of data gathered from different censuses difficult. As already stated, the enumeration of population up to the 1931 census was based on the de facto concept, while from the 1941 census the de jure (rather the extended de facto) concept was adopted. Again, up to 1951, only dwellings were counted as houses, but from 1961 onwards, besides dwellings, shop-cum-dwellings, places of business, workshops, schools, etc., are also being counted as census houses. Again, the ‘family’ of all censuses up to the 1941 census had been replaced by the ‘household’ in later censuses, a household being taken to be a group of people taking meals from a common kitchen. Most important has been the changes in the concept of economic activity and in economic classification. Economic activity of a person may be defined either on the basis of the work that may be done by him/her or on the basis of the income he/she may be earning. Now, in all censuses up to 1921 the basis had been work, while in the censuses of 1931 to 1951 the basis was income. But since the 1961 census again, the basis has been work. As to economic classification, no clear distinction had been made between industry and occupation in the censuses up to 1951. While a certain system of classification was followed in 1881, 1891 and 1901, a second system of classification was followed in 1911 to 1941 and a third in 1951. In 1961, for the first time economic data were classified separately by industry and by occupation. This practice continued in 1971 and 1981, but the classification systems were subject to minor revisions.
        4. The processing of census data in India takes a long time so that most census reports are published 5-6 years after the census date. Thus, even with some computer help now available to the office of the Census Commissioner, it was possible till early 1986 to bring out no more than the General Population Tables for the 1981 census. This delay in the publication of the reports undoubtedly reduces the utility of the census data to planners and demographers alike.




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Indian Official Statistics: Part VI(a)
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