Amid COVID-19, Census-NPR may be deferred to next year

The government’s Census and NPR exercises may be deferred until the next year as the government will monitor the COVID-19 situation before exploring a revised schedule, The Times of India has reported.

Census exercise was to be held in two phases. Phase 1 was to cover house listing and housing, which was to be conducted along with the National Population Register (NPR) exercise, between April and September 2020. Phase 2 included population enumeration, scheduled to be conducted between February 9 and 28, 2021 with March 1, 2021, as reference dates, the report suggested.

Now, considering the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, some experts including two former Registrars General of India (RGI) and Census Commissioners — AR Nanda and JK Banthia who oversaw 1991 and 2001 Census, respectively, said reworking of Census time-lines “may be inevitable”, as per the report.

They supported the option of deferring the census reference date to March 1, 2022, instead of March 1, 2021, along with pushing house listing in April-September next year and population enumeration in February 2022, said the report.

According to Banthia, the reason why India follows this schedule of conducting population enumeration every 10 years in February as agriculture season, climatic factors, festivals, availability of enumerators and other factors are taken into account and migration is the lowest.

However, now there are factors that government could weigh on while taking a call on the Census-NPR schedule, as told by Banthia and Nanda to the publication. These are monsoon and agricultural season, the preoccupation of state and UT administration with containing COVID-19 as cases rise, possible non-availability of teachers due to the need to prioritise lessons in view of the disturbed school schedules, health and safety challenges faced by enumerators during fieldwork.

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Additionally, big upheavals in economic activity and outmigration caused by the pandemic that could affect the quality and comparability of data said the report citing Nanda and Banthia.

Concerning COVID-19 outbreak, rescheduling of Census dates is necessary for maintaining operational sanctity and convenience to ensure the integrity and acceptability of the demographic data since it is an exercise with huge statutory implications, Banthia was quoted as saying.

Also, Nanda backed rescheduling of the first stage of Census as he said, “we are already in June and the remaining period may not be enough for all states and Union Territories to start and complete the house listing phase.”

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Updated: June 8, 2020 — 7:45 am

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