Census Of India

Historical Background

The earliest literature 'Rig-Veda' reveals that some kind of population count was maintained in during 800-600 BC in India. The celebrated 'Arthashastr' by 'Kautilya' written in the 3rd Century BC prescribed the collection of population statistics as a measure of state policy for taxation. It contained a detailed description of methods of conducting population, economic and agricultural censuses. During the regime of the Mughal king Akbar, the administrative report 'Ain-e-Akbari' included comprehensive data pertaining to population, industry, wealth and many other characteristics.

A systematic and modern population census, in its present form was conducted non synchronously between 1865 and 1872 in different parts of the country. This effort culminating in 1872 has been popularly labeled as the first population census of India However, the first synchronous census in India was held in 1881. Since then, censuses have been undertaken uninterruptedly once every ten year.

The Census of India 2001 was the fourteenth census in the continuous series as reckoned from1872 and the sixth since independence. The gigantic task of census taking was completed in two phases. In the first phase, known as House -listing Operations, all building and structures, residential, partly residential or non- residential were identified and listed and the uses to which they were put recorded. Information on houses, household amenities and assets were also collected. In the second phase, known as Population Enumeration, more detailed information on each individual residing in the country, Indian national or otherwise, during the enumeration period was collected.

At the Census 2001, more than 2 million (or 20 lakh) enumerators were deployed to collect the information by visiting every household. The Indian Census is one of the largest administrative exercises undertaken in the world.

Census in India

The Indian Census has a rich tradition and enjoys the reputation of being one of the best in the world. The first Census in India was conducted in the year 1872. This was conducted at different points of time in different parts of the country. In 1881 a Census was taken for the entire country simultaneously. Since then, Census has been conducted every ten years, without a break. Thus, the Census of India 2011 will be the fifteenth in this unbroken series since 1872 and the seventh after independence. It is through the missionary zeal and dedication of Enumerators like you that the great historical tradition of conducting the Census uninterruptedly has been maintained in spite of several adversities like wars, epidemics, natural calamities, political unrest, etc. Participation in the Census by the people of India is indeed a true reflection of the national spirit of unity in diversity.

Objective of conducting a Census

• India is a welfare State. Since independence, Five Year Plans, Annual Plans and various welfare schemes have been launched for the benefit of the common man. All these require information at the grass root level. This information is provided by the Census.

• Have you ever wondered how the number of seats in Parliamentary/Assembly Constituencies, Panchayats and other local bodies are determined? Similarly, how the boundaries of such constituencies are demarcated? Well the answer to that is also the Census. These are just a few examples. Census provides information on a large number of areas. Thus, you are not merely collecting information; you are actually a part of a massive nation building activity.

• The Houselisting and Housing Census has immense utility as it will provide comprehensive data on the conditions of human settlements, housing deficit and consequently the housing requirement to be taken care of in the formulation of housing policies. This will also provide a wide range of data on amenities and assets available to the households, information much needed by various departments of the Union and State Governments and other nonGovernmental agencies for development and planning at the local level as well as the State level. This would also provide the base for Population Enumeration.

• Population Enumeration provides valuable information about the land and its people at a given point of time. It provides trends in the population and its various characteristics, which are an essential input for planning. The Census data are frequently required to develop 2 sound policies and programmes aimed at fostering the welfare of the country and its people. This data source has become indispensable for effective and efficient public administration besides serving the needs of scholars, businessmen, industrialists, planners and electoral authorities, etc. Therefore, Census has become a regular feature in progressive countries, whatever be their size and political set up. It is conducted at regular intervals for fulfilling welldefined objectives. One of the essential features of Population Enumeration is that each person is enumerated and her/his individual particulars are collected at a well-defined point of time.

Census After Independence

The first census of Independent India was conducted in 1951, which was the seventh census in its continuous series. The enumeration period of this Census was from 9th to 28th, February 1951. A three day revisional round from 1 st to 3rd Drop-in-Article : Census of India 2011 Page 5 March was undertaken to update the data as on sunrise of 1st March, the reference date. An Individual Slip was canvassed which contained 13 questions. The particulars like name, relationship, birth place, sex, age, economic status, principal and subsidiary means of livelihood were obtained for each individual. The information on religion, mother tongue, literacy was also obtained. Out of 13 questions, 12 questions with its sub parts were common for all states while 1 question with sub parts relating to fertility, unemployment, infirmity, size of family was optional for certain states. In the Census of 1951 the entire Jammu and Kashmir was excluded from Census and its population was estimated on the basis of past census figures.

Census From 1951 to 2001

Census 1951 in India

The first census of Independent India was conducted in 1951, which was the seventh census in its continuous series. The enumeration period of this Census was from 9th to 28th, February 1951. A three day revisional round from 1 st to 3rd March was undertaken to update the data as on sunrise of 1st March, the reference date. An Individual Slip was canvassed which contained 13 questions. The particulars like name, relationship, birth place, sex, age, economic status, principal and subsidiary means of livelihood were obtained for each individual. The information on religion, mother tongue, literacy was also obtained. In the Census of 1951 the entire Jammu and Kashmir was excluded from Census and its population was estimated on the basis of past census figures.

Census 1961 in India

Census of 1961 started on 10th February and ended on sunrise of 1st March. The revisional round took place for 5 days instead of 3 days of 1951 Census. However, the reference date remained unchanged. In place of Individual Slip of 1951 Census, following two schedules were canvassed:

  • Household Schedule-For each Household
  • Individual Slip-For each Individual

The Household Schedule was divided in A, B & C parts which were further divided in sub parts. Information relating to persons engaged in cultivation and Household industry was collected through this schedule. The Individual Slip consists of 13 questions. The Individual Slips of 1951 and 1961 Censuses differ in following ways;

• In 1961, age at last birthday was asked in place of age.
• A question on civil condition asked in 1951 was dropped in 1961.
• The question on birth place was further sub divided in three parts to elicit information on rural /urban status and duration of residence.
• In 1951, information on economic status with dependency and employment status was obtained whereas in 1961 its scope was enlarged and details of employment in four broad categories of workers with nature of industry, class of workers etc was also obtained.

Census 1971 in India

The Census of 1971 was 11th census in continuous series and 2nd after independence. The census of 1971 was conducted at different time as compared to previous censuses to avoid clash with mid-term Parliamentary Election. The census of 1971 was conducted between 10th March and 31st March and revisional round was taken from 1st to 3rd April. Deviating from past, the reference date was taken as 1st April, 1971. The Census of 1971 was conducted in following two phases;

  • Houselisting Operations
  • Actual Enumeration
Objective of conducting a Census

The first phase was conducted in different part of country at different time between June to September, 1970 by canvassing two schedules viz, Houselist and Establishment Schedule. During the second phase an Individual slip was canvassed. The following were the new features of 1971 Individual Slips;

a. A question for getting Information on fertility for currently married women was included.
b. An additional question “Last Residence” was included to get the information on migration aspect in a better way.
c. The scope of economic questions was further enlarged and a new question on secondary work was introduced.

Census 1981 in India

The fourth census of Independent India was conducted from 9 th to 28th February, 1981 with a revisional round from 1st to 5th March, 1981.The reference date was again reckoned as sunrise of 1st, March which could not be adhered to in 1971. On the pattern of 1971, this census was again conducted in two phases. In the first phase, a Houselist Schedule was canvassed but the establishment schedule which was canvassed during 1971 was dropped in 1981. Deviating from past census, in 1981 following two schedules were canvassed during 2nd phase;

  • Household Schedule
  • Individual Slip

The Household schedule consists of two parts. In the first part the particulars of household like religion, SC/ST status, language spoken and also predominant construction materials of wall, roof and floor were collected. The information on amenities like drinking water, electricity, toilet facility available to the Household was also collected in first part of Household schedule. In the second part characteristics of each individual which were identical to Individual slips were collected. Information on first few columns in part II of Household & Individual Slip were recorded in the field simultaneously while in remaining columns of Household schedule the information from Individual slip was transcribed later on. Following changes were incorporated in Individual slip of 1981 Census;

i. The slip was divided in two parts I and II. In first part 16 questions were included which were canvassed on Universal basis. The second part contained 6 questions, relating to migration and fertility, which were canvassed on Sample basis.
ii. In part I two new questions –a) Attending school/college and b) If non worker seeking /available for work were included.
iii.In part II a question on reason for Migration was also included.
iv. In part II age at marriage was asked from ‘ever married women ‘whereas in 1971 this question was asked from ‘currently women ‘only.

Census 1991 in India

The Census of 1991 was the fifth Census of independent India and conducted as usual from 9th to 28th February, 2001 to present census data as on sunrise of 1st March.2001, the reference date. The two phases were continued in the same way like previous two censuses. In the first phase a Houselist was canvassed to collect the information on housing data and also amenities available to the households. The scope of Houselist was enlarged and for the first time a question regarding type of fuel used for cooking Drop-in-Article : Census of India 2011 Page 7 was canvassed. In 1981 the question on availability of toilet facility was canvassed for urban areas only, however in 1991 it was canvassed for rural areas also. During 2nd phase following two schedules were canvassed;

  • Household Schedule
  • Individual Slip

The special features of the 1991 Census schedule as compared to 1981 census are as follows;

i. The Household Schedule was so designed that the PCA with nine fold industrial category up to village level in rural area and at charge level in urban area and also data relating to religion and mother tongue can be prepared by manual tabulation expeditiously.
ii. A new question on Ex-service man was included.
iii. The concept of literacy was changed and children of 7+ age group were considered as literate as compared to 1981 when children up to age group of 4+ were treated as literate.
iv. In 1981 census the question on seeking/available for work was asked from marginal workers and non workers whereas in 1991 this question was asked only from Non workers.
v. In 1991 census a question –“Have you ever worked before” was included for those persons who have reported that they are seeking/available for work.

Census 2001 in India

The Census of India 2001 was the first census of twenty first century and also third census of millennium. As in the past the Census-2001 was also conducted in two phases. During the first phase, the Houselisting Operations was conducted between April to September-2000 in which a houselist was canvassed. During Houselisting, information on a large number of new items such as condition of the building, number of independent sleeping rooms for married couples, type of toilets, availability of drainage with further bifurcation of open or close drainage , bathing and cooking facility within the house was collected. Some of the questions like number of living room and number of married couples, which were canvassed during 2 nd phase in 1991 through Household schedule, were canvassed during first phase through Houselist in 2011 census. Besides, information relating to possession of certain assets like cycle, scooter/motor cycle/moped, radio, television, telephone, availing banking facility etc. were also collected.

The second phase ‘Population Enumeration’ was undertaken between 9th to 28th February with revisional round from 1st march to 5th March,2001.Deviating from past censuses the census movement was 00.00 hours of 1st March, which was otherwise mostly sun rise of 1st March of relevant Census year (except 1971) .In certain snow bound areas of Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal (Now Uttarakhand) and also J&K the enumeration was taken between 11th to 30th September 2000 but in certain districts of J&K it was extended from 1st October to 15th November 2000. In Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh due to flood the enumeration was conducted from 12th to 31st May, 2001.Due to earth quake in Kuchchh district the population enumeration was undertaken during 9th February to 28th February, 2002. In the Drop-in-Article : Census of India 2011 Page 8 second phase instead of Household schedule and Individual slip only Household Schedule was canvassed. The questions which were canvassed in Household Schedule and Individual Slips in previous two censuses were put together in one schedule named as Household Schedule. The Household Schedule of 2001 Census designed contain 23 questions which runs into 39 columns printed on both sides of the Schedule. Following were the new features of 2001 Household Schedule;

i. Information regarding age at marriage was collected for males also.
ii. For type of educational institutions being attended by a person vocational, other institute and, literacy center were added.
iii.A new question to collect information on total or partial disability was canvassed. In 1981 the question on disability was canvassed in first phase and dropped in 1991.
iv.iv. Question on seeking and available for work was also canvassed for marginal workers and question on secondary work of main workers was dropped.
v. A new question on distance travelled by a person to his/her work place and also mode of travel was canvassed for persons engaged in non agriculture activities.
vi. Sex wise information was collected for the children born alive during last one year.
vii.Net area of land under cultivation/plantation and net area of irrigated land was also collected for those households who were engaged in cultivation/plantation in Part III of Household Schedule.
viii.For the first time provision was made in the Household Schedule for taking signature or thumb impression of the respondent.

A quantum leap was also made in the technology front in 2001 Census. The schedules for the phases were scanned through high speed scanners and hand written data from the schedules were converted into digitized form through Intelligent Character Reading (ICR).


A. The Census Act, 1948 :

As an Enumerator or Supervisor, the duties you are asked to perform, are very important and challenging. The first thing that you will notice from your Appointment Letter is that you have been appointed under the Census Act, 1948. This means that the role you are about to perform has the sanction of Law. The law while providing certain protection to you in discharge of your legitimate duties also provides for penalties in case these duties are not performed in a proper manner. We have no doubt that all of you will complete the Census work thoroughly and satisfactorily with pride and devotion within the allotted time schedule. Let us now look at some of the important legal provisions that govern the conduct of Census.

B. Rights of an Enumerator/Supervisor under the provisions of the Census Act, 1948

2.2 The following are the rights of an Enumerator/Supervisor conferred by the Census Act to facilitate Census operations :

(i) To enter the house, enclosure, vessel or any other place occupied by the household for the purpose of carrying out the Census, having regard to local customs. [Section 9]
(ii) To paint or affix numbers on the building/Census house as may be necessary for the purpose of Census. [Section 9]
(iii) To ask all such questions as printed in the Houselisting and Housing Census Schedule. [Section 8 (1)]
(iv) To obtain the answers from the respondents, to all such questions printed in the schedule and asked by her/him. [Section 8 (2)]

Penalties under the Act if the Enumerator/Supervisor fails to perform the duties

2.3 The appointment of a person as an Enumerator/Supervisor under the Census Act, 1948 automatically casts upon such person a duty to conduct the assigned Census operations with due diligence. Failure to discharge the entrusted duties as per the guidelines results in imposing of penalties.

(i) The following offences are punishable with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees and with imprisonment which may extend to three years :

(a) refusing to perform any duty imposed upon a person under the Census Act, 1948 or Census Rules, 1990 or obstructing another person in performing such duty. [Section 11 (1)(a)].
(b) putting offensive or improper questions or knowingly making false return. [Section 11 (1)(b)].
(c) disclosing any information which she/he has received by means of, or for the purposes of, a Census return without the previous sanction of the Government. [Section 11 (1)(b)].

(ii) The following offences are punishable with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees :

(a) neglecting to use reasonable diligence in performing any duty imposed upon a person under the Census Act, or Census Rules. [Section 11 (1)(aa)].
(b) abetting any offence under sub-section(1) of Section 11 of the Census Act, 1948. [Section 11 (2)].

B.The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Primary Education Act, 2009 :

2.5 Section 27 of The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Primary Education Act, 2009 reads as follows : “No teacher shall be deployed for any non-educational purpose other than the decennial population Census, disaster relief duties or duties relating to elections to the local authority or the State Legislatures or Parliament, as the case may be.” This Act overrides all the existing judgments, whatsoever, on the subject matter of appointment of teachers for performing Census related duties. In view of the above it is clear that the services of teachers can be used for works of national importance like Census.

C. Duties of an Enumerator :

2.6 In order to ensure complete coverage, it would be necessary to locate and identify each and every house and structure in your Houselisting Block. Therefore, it would be essential for you to go round the Houselisting Block assigned and become familiar with its features. The main duties of an Enumerator before, during and after conduct of the Houselisting are detailed below :

2.7 Duties before Houselisting

(i) Attend the training classes, study the Houselisting Schedule and the manual carefully and understand them thoroughly. If any part of instruction is not clear, ask your trainer for clarification .
(ii) Obtain all the material needed for Houselisting before you leave the training centre at the end of the last training session.

2.8 Duties during Houselisting

(i) Go round the Houselisting Block and identify its boundaries and other landmarks.
(ii) Update/assign number to each building and Census house and prepare the layout map of your Houselisting Block in duplicate.
(iii) Visit each and every house without exception and fill up the Houselisting Schedule.

2.9 Duties after Houselisting

(i) Look through the filled in Houselisting Schedules and ensure that all the questions are completed correctly.
(ii) Ensure that the entire area assigned to you is covered by visiting all the buildings, Census houses and the households falling within your Houselisting Block.
(iii) See that you have prepared the Houselist Abstract.
(iv) Handover all the documents filled in as well as blank documents to your supervisor within the stipulated time.

D. Duties of the Supervisor :

2.10 The Supervisor shall
a. Help the Enumerators under her/his jurisdiction and ensure that work is done as per schedule and the coverage is complete; and
b. Collect the filled in and blank forms and statements from each Enumerator and forward the documents along with such statements she/he may be required to prepare, duly signed to the Charge Officer within the stipulated time.

Honorarium/Awards 2.11

Though it is a legal obligation, the work done by the enumerator is duly rewarded and recognized :

(i) All the enumerators who are engaged in this great national task will be paid a suitable honorarium as decided by the Government of India.
(ii) The meritorious work done by the enumerators will be given due recognition.

Asking of questions and obligation to answer

8 (1) A Census officer may ask all such questions of all persons within the limits of the local area for which he is appointed as, by instructions issued in this behalf by the Central Government and published in the Official Gazette, he may be directed to ask.

(2) Every person of whom any question is asked under sub-section (1) shall be legally bound to answer such question to the best of his knowledge or belief :

Provided that no person shall be bound to state the name of any female member of his household, and no woman shall be bound to state the name of her husband or deceased husband or of any other person whose name she is forbidden by custom to mention.

Occupier to permit access and affixing of numbers.

9 Every person occupying any house, enclosure, vessel or other place shall allow Censusofficers such access thereto as they may require for the purposes of the Census and as, having regard to the customs of the country, may be reasonable, and shall allow them to paint on, or affix to, the place such letters, marks or numbers as may be necessary for the purpose of the Census.


11(1) (a) any Census-officer or any person lawfully required to give assistance towards the taking of Census who refuses to perform any duty imposed upon him by this Act or any rule made thereunder, or any person who hinders or obstructs another person in performing any such duty, or

(b) any Census-officer or any person lawfully required to give assistance towards the taking of a Census who neglects to use reasonable diligence in performing any duty imposed upon him or in obeying any order issued to him in accordance with this Act or any rule made thereunder, or any person who hinders or obstructs another person in performing any such duty or obeying any such order, or;

(c) any Census-officer who intentionally puts any offensive or improper question or knowingly makes any false return or, without the previous sanction of the Central Government or the State Government, discloses any information which he has received by means of, or for the purposes of, a Census return, or……

(d) any person who intentionally gives a false answer to, or refuses to answer to the best of his knowledge or belief, any question asked of him by a Census-officer which he is legally bound by section 8 to answer, or

(e) any person occupying any house, enclosure, vessel or other place who refuses to allow a Census-officer such reasonable access thereto as he is required by section 9 to allow, or 6

(f) any person who removes, obliterates, alters, or damages any letters, marks or numbers which have been painted or affixed for the purposes of the Census, or... shall be punishable with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees and in case of a conviction under part (a), (b)....... shall also be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three years.

(2) Whoever abets any offence under sub-section (1) shall be punishable with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees.

Records of Census not open to inspection nor admissible in evidence.

15 No person shall have a right to inspect any book, register or record made by a Census officer in the discharge of his duty as such, or any schedule delivered under section 10, and notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, no entry in any such book, register, record or schedule shall be admissible as evidence in any civil proceeding whatsoever or in any criminal proceeding other than a prosecution under this Act or any other law for any act or omission which constitutes an offence under this Act.

Protection of service interests of members of Census staff.

15 A No member of the Census staff shall suffer any disability in service by reason of his being on Census duty and the period spent by him on such Census duty shall be deemed to be the duty under his lending employer and any duty performed under this Act shall not in any manner affect the right of promotion or other advancement in his original service.

Protection of action taken in good faith.

15 B No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against the Census Commissioner or any Director of Census Operations or any Census-officer or any member of the Census staff for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act or the rules made there under.

Census 2011 in India

Census 2011 was the 7th Census operation post India's Independence and 15th in total since.The 2011 Census was conducted in two segments:

  • • Population enumeration
  • • Housing and house listing

Owing to the demand from some of the ruling union leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Sharad Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav, Census operations in India in the year 2011 even included detailed information regarding the different prevalent castes in the Indian society.

Report of Census 2011 in India

As per the provisional Census report published by the Census of India, Ministry of Home Affairs on 31st Mar., 2011, total population in India increased to 1.21 billion. The decadal growth for the total population was 17.64 %. Rate of adult literacy showed a registered growth of 74.04%, where the decadal growth was 9.21 %.

The provisional report of the Census of 2011 in India, at a glance.

  • Total population: 1,210,193,422
  • Male population: 623,724,248
  • Female population: 586,469,174
  • Density: 382 per sq. km.
  • Sex ratio: 940 females per 1000 males
  • Decadal Growth Rate (2001-2011)
  • Total: 18, 14, 55,986 (17.64 %)
  • Male: 9, 15, 01,158 (17.19 %)
  • Female: 8, 99, 54,828 (18.12 %)
  • Population (0-6 years)
  • Total: 15, 87, 89,287 (13.12 %)
  • Girls: 7, 58, 37,152 (12.93 %)
  • Boys: 8, 29, 52,135 (13.30 %)
  • Sex ratio: 914 females per 1000 males
  • Literacy
  • Total: 77, 84, 54,120 (74.04 %)
  • Females: 33, 42, 50,358 (65.46 %)
  • Males: 44, 42, 03,762 (82.14 %)

Major components of Census 2011 in India Population

According to the report published by the Census India in Mar., 2011, the total population of the country was 1,210,193,422. A total of 181 million people increased from the previous Census of 2001. Presently, the mostly populated states of India are:

  • • Uttarpradesh
  • • Bihar
  • • Maharashtra
  • • West Bengal
  • • Tamil Nadu
  • • Madhya Pradesh

The country covers just 2.4 % of the total earth's surface but is responsible for 17.5% of the total population on earth.


Indian density of population has increased from 324 people per sq km during Census 2001 to 382 people per sq. km. in 2011 Census. The state of Uttar Pradesh is said to be the most populous state of the Indian Republic and Lakshadweep being least populous.

Sex Ratio

As per Census 2011, India has got 940 females per every 1000 males. Among all the states and Union Territories of the nation, Pondicherry has got the highest sex ratio of 1038. 2011 Census has reported the lowest child sex ratio of 914 girl children per every 100 boy children.


Literacy rate of a place is calculated based on the fact that how many among the total inhabitants are literate. A person is regarded as literate, in case, he or she is within the age group of 7 yrs or above and is capable of reading, writing and speaking in a particular language. Now, this Census 2011 calculated the country's literacy rate in two different ways:

  • • Crude literacy rate
  • • Effective literacy rate

Literacy rate calculated by taking the total population of a place into account is known as Crude Literacy Rate. Whereas, while calculating the Effective Literacy Rate, the population aging between 7 years and above are taken into account. Within the years 2001 to 2011, the Effective Literacy Rate in India increased to 74.04 %. Out of this, the percentage of male Effective Literacy Rate is 82.14 % and female Effective Literacy Rate is 65.46 %.