Census: Pre Census Activities and Conduct of Census:

Census 2011 marks a milestone in the history of Census taking in the country. It has come at a time when India is perhaps at an inflexion point in history, when it sheds the legacy of the past and emerges among the comity of Nations as a strong, self-reliant and modern Nation. The basic benchmark statistics on the state of human resources, demography, culture and economic structure at this crucial juncture of the country’s history would be vital to guide and shape the future course of the Nation.
In a country like India, with multi-ethnic, multilingual, multicultural and multilevel society, the Census is much more than a mere head count of the population. It gives a snapshot of not only the demographic but also the economic, social and cultural profile of the country at a particular point of time. More often than not, it is the only available source of primary data at the level of the village and town (ward). It provides valuable information for planning and formulation of policies by the Government and is also used widely by National and International agencies, scholars, business persons, industrialists, and many more. In addition, the Census provides a basic frame for conduct of other surveys in the country. Any informed decision making that is based on empirical data is dependent on the Census. Democratic processes like the delimitation of electoral constituencies and affirmative action like reservation are also based on the basic data sets of the Census. It has indeed come a long way from what was described as “the idle curiosity of an eccentric sirkar” (Molony, 1911). No wonder therefore, that Census 2011 has adopted an apt tagline – “Our Census, Our Future”!

Pre Census Activities:

(1)-The first step towards Census taking relates to preparation of a complete and unduplicated list of all geographical entities in the country, preparation of a complete up-to-date list of Statutory and Census Towns for identification as Urban areas and the villages as Rural areas was also done as a part of the pre Census activities. The demarcation of Out Growths of Towns and Urban Agglomerations was also taken up as a part of this exercise. One of the important inputs in Census taking is assigning of the Location code Numbers at various administrative levels. The Location Code Number is a simple device by which every compact geographical area in any administrative unit can be uniquely identified.

The Cartographic Division of the Census Organisation has evolved over the years and is now the largest producer of thematic Maps in the country. The latest addition in Census 2011 is the preparation of satellite imagery based digital maps at the street and building level in 33 Capital Cities of the country. These digital maps were used effectively to carve out the Enumeration Blocks in both phases of the Census.

The need for comprehensive training of all functionaries, especially the Enumerators and Supervisors can hardly be underscored. . It needs mention that the entire training strategy has been a collaborative effort between the UN Agencies (UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP, UN WOMEN) on the one hand and the Census Organisation.

All modes of Publicity - Mass media, Public relations, Outreach activities and Digital media have been used to spread awareness and enlist the cooperation of all stakeholders. A new initiative - ‘Census in Schools’ was launched across the country.


The Census Operations in India are carried out in two phases- the Houselisting and Housing Census followed by the Population Enumeration. The objective of the Houselisting and Housing Census is to systematically list out all the structures, houses and households throughout the country for preparation of a sound frame for conduct of the Population Enumeration. All the buildings and houses wherever necessary are numbered for easy identification at the time of actual enumeration. The Houselisting and Housing Census was conducted in different States and Union Territories during April-September 2010. Along with this, preparation of NPR( National Population register) was also done.

The Population Enumeration was undertaken between 9th to 28th February 2011 (both days inclusive). A revisional round was conducted from 1st to 5th March 2011. . The Census Moment, the referral time at which the snapshot of the population is taken, is 00.00 hours of 1st March, 2011. The houseless population, as has been the usual practice, was enumerated on the night of 28th February 2011.

As part of the Census preparations, the first Data Users’ Conference was held in April 2008. In order to finalise the Questionnaire and advise the Census Organisation, a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) was constituted by the Government of India on 30th September 2008. The Census Questionnaire was piloted and pre-tested in the field in all States and Union Territories from 28th June 2009 to 17th August 2009. The results and the field experiences of the Pre-Test were discussed in a Conference of the Directors of Census Operations and a draft Questionnaire was finalised for the consideration of the Technical Advisory Committee. In all 35 Questions were canvassed in the Houselisting and Housing Census Schedule and 29 Questions in the Household Schedule (Population Enumeration).

(2)-The Census of India is conducted under the provisions of the Census Act 1948 and the Census Rules, 1990.

The Notification regarding the intention of the Government of India to conduct a Census of the population of India in 2011 was published in the Gazette of India on 20th February 2009. In the same Notification, the Reference Date was also notified as 00.00 hours of the first day of March 2011 (except for the snow-bound areas of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand). In the snow-bound areas of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand the Reference Date was notified as 00.00 hours of the first day of October 2010.

The Notification regarding the conduct of Houselisting and Housing Census from 1st April 2010 to 30th September 2010 in different States and Union Territories was published in the Gazette of India on 25th February, 2010.

The Notification regarding the questions to be canvassed in the Population Enumeration was published in the Gazette of India on 31st August, 2010.

(3)-A feature that makes the Indian Census particularly complex is that the Schedules are canvassed in 16 languages and the Instruction Manuals are developed in 18 languages. The requirement is also huge - 5.4 million Instruction Manuals and 340 million Census Schedules.

The task of making available all the materials required for conducting the Census – Enumerators Kits, Instruction Manuals and other training material, Census Schedules in the right quantity and in the right language to the Charge Officers (approximately 17, 000 in number) and the reverse collection of filled in Schedules and other material, as can well be imagined is a logistical nightmare. As regards the transportation of material, a pioneering initiative of using the India Post for handling the logistics was undertaken. . A special ‘Logistics Post’ arrangement was put in place by India Post for the Census 2011.