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What counts is seldom counted: How the census data remains under utilised

The article discusses the significance and limitations of the Census in India, particularly in light of the ongoing debate regarding the inclusion of caste enumeration in the Census. (Source: The Hindu, 24.05.2023)


Since the beginning of the exercise, India has never skipped a decadal Census. The reason being is pandemic. Ironically, while the Census has yet to be completed, a number of elections have been place, and crowds have gathered at sizable demonstrations disregarding COVID-19 rules.

What does census do?

The Census has potential for policymaking and understanding population dynamics. But its importance has diminished due to limited information collected and under-utilization of Census data. The delayed dissemination of data and potential political interference further hamper its effectiveness.

What is the significance of digital census?

The digital Census would ensure better quality, coverage, and quicker results, considering the digital age we live in. However, it expresses concerns about the demand for caste enumeration, stating that it adds to the confusion surrounding the Census. And may even serve the interests of political agendas rather than addressing systemic issues. Thus, The Census should go beyond mere population counting and focus on generating comprehensive and timely information.

Where should the census focus upon?

It should emphasize on the importance of analyzing demographic attributes and advocating for counting achieved identities and tangible attributes like education and profession, rather than focusing solely on ascribed attributes like caste and religion. It argue that associating ascribed attributes with adversity or failure can perpetuate an environment of patronage and clientelism. That interventions should focus on addressing the adversity itself rather than the specific identity associated with it. It proposes that the Census data should be explored more systematically and intelligently, highlighting its potential for understanding population attributes and future trends.


Overall, the article contends that while both the count and characteristics are important, focusing on modifiable characteristics and addressing systemic issues will lead to more effective interventions and positive change. It calls for a reevaluation of the Census’s purpose and utilization to make it more relevant and impactful.

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