This article throws light upon the three main sources of demographic data in India. The sources are: 1. Census 2. Civil Registration System 3. Demographic Surveys.
Source # 1. Census:
The most important source of demographic data in India is the census. It provides valuable information about the country and its people at a given point of time.
The beginning of modern census in India was the year 1872 when it was conducted at different points of time in different parts of the country during 1867- 72. According to Kinsley Davis,” It was just an auspicious beginning of census taking in India.” It was based on “head counting” technique and was not synchronous. From 1881 onwards, a complete and synchronous decennial censuses were held.
Till the Census of 1931, the census was conducted under the date system. Under it, a date was fixed for conducting the census. During that night and every person in the house was counted whether he belonged to that family or not.
Persons travelling in trains were counted by stopping trains at 6 a.m. and those present at railway platforms with tickets after 7 p.m. were also counted. This was a very defective system because the entire census was conducted throughout the night till early morning. It required a very large number of trained enumerators who were not easily available.
In the 1941 Census, the enumeration work was completed in one week. First, the house lists were prepared on the basis of which every person in a household present on the days of enumeration was counted. But any person not present at his residence on those days was counted where he was available during that period.
For the first time, information was collected on the number of children born with age, the age of the mother at the time of birth of the first child and literates in each family.
The Census of 1951 was the first census which was conducted in independent India from 9 February to 1 March 1951. It was conducted by the Census Commissioner and his trained staff and enumerators appointed under the Census of India Act, 1948. It covered the whole of India, except Jammu and Kashmir.
For the first time, it collected information relating to:
(1) Married, bachelor and divorcees;
(2) place of birth, age at the last date of birth;
(3) mother tongue and other languages known;
(4) sex of a person;
(5) economically self- sufficient, partially self-sufficient and dependents; (6) employed, partially employed and self-employed, etc.,
(7) level of literacy and education; religion wise and tribe wise population; persons migrated from Pakistan, etc.
The 1951 Census Report discussed the growth and structure of the population, the threat posed by the alarming increase in population and the need for curbing the growth rate of population.
The Census of 1961 was conducted between 10 February to 28 February 1961 in the same manner as the 1951 Census. It improved upon the previous census by collecting some additional information regarding scheduled castes/ scheduled tribes and persons engaged in agriculture/industry or any other work, etc. Besides the whole of India, this census also covered Jammu and Kashmir for the first time.
The 1971 Census was conducted during 10 March to 3 April 1971.
It was more comprehensive than the earlier census and collected the following additional information relating to:
(1) a married woman regarding the place to which she belonged before her marriage;
(2) main occupation and place of work;
(3) nature and period of work; educational qualifications separately for graduates and technocrats with such details as year of passing, foreign visits, research done, published work, etc.
The Census of 1981 was conducted between 9 February and 5 March 1981.
This census also collected some additional information as compared with the 1971 Census relating to the following items:
(1) housing and household amenities;
(2) avaliablity of toilet facilities in urban houses;
(3) a child in the age group 0-4 was considered as illiterate;
(4) introduction of concepts and definitions relating to economic questions in general and work in particular.
The 1991 Census began on 9 February and ended on 28 February, 1991. The houseless people were enumerated on the night of 28 February. A revisional round was carried out during 1 March to 5 March, 1991.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the enumeration work was done during August- September, 1991 and in snow covered and inaccessible areas in September- October, 1991.
The following additional information was collected in this census:
(1) The house list was expanded to cover some more information relating to housing and household amenities.
(2) For the first time, persons were asked about the type of fuel used for cooking.
(3) The availability of toilet facility in rural areas for the household was collected.
(4) A question was included in the Individual Slip on ex-servicemen and their status as pensioner or non-pensioner.
(5) Children in the age group of 0-6 years were counted as illiterate as against 0-4 years in the previous census.
(6) The nature of women’s work was included for the first time.
(7) The question on available/seeking work was included only for non- workers and not for marginal workers. Besides, they were asked whether they had ever worked before.
(8) In the questions on reasons for migration, business and natural calamities like drought, floods, etc. were added.
The Census in India is conducted by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner under the Union Home Ministry under the Census of India Act, 1948, Census Rules, 1990 and Census (Amendment) Act, 1993. This Act makes every person legally bound to answer all questions asked by the enumerator correctly and fully. Any person who gives a false answer or refuses to answer any question asked by the census officer; any enumerator or officer refuses to perform his duty; any person hinders or obstructs the performance of duty, are liable to be punished with fine and imprisonment. The Act also lays down that the records of census are not open to inspection, nor admissible in evidence in a court. The Census Rules explain the various terms and definitions of the census schedules.
We explain below the procedure followed in collecting information followed in the 2001 census.
Census of India 2001:
In the 2001 Census, the population enumeration period for the whole country was fixed from 9th February to 28th February, 2001 with the reference date as 00:00 hours of 1st March, 2001 for household and institutional household.
The houseless who lived in the open on roadside, pavements, in hume pipes, under flyovers and staircases or in the open places of worship, railway platforms, etc. were enumerated on the night of 28th February, 2001. To bring the population up-to-date with reference to the Census moment and the reference date, a revisional round was undertaken between 1st and 5th March.
In the revisional round, the enumerators were required to enter any new family who had migrated but not enumerated from where it left, and any birth that might have taken place in the household after 28th February but before the midnight (00.00 hours) of 1st March, 2001.
Similarly, they were required to cancel the entries in the Household Schedule of persons who died after 28th February but prior to the midnight of 1st March, 2001.
The 2001 Census was conducted into two phases:
(1) Houselisting Operations, and
(2) Population Enumeration.
During the Houselisting Operations the buildings, census houses and households were identified and systematically listed in the Household Schedule. This work also included the identification of boundaries of the enumeration block and the preparation of Layout Map by 8th February, 2001. In the second phase, Population Enumeration was done for each household. Each household was required to give the information listed below in Table 1.
Census of India 2001 Population Enumeration:
1. General and Socio-Cultural Characteristics:
a. Name of the person
b. Relationship to head
c. Sex (Male/Female)
d. Age last birthday (in completed years)
e. Current marital status
f. Age at marriage (in completed years)
h. If Scheduled Caste, name of the Scheduled Caste (can only be among Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists)
i. If Scheduled Tribe, name of the Scheduled Tribe (can be from any religion)
j. Mother tongue
k. Other languages known
l. Literacy status (Literate/Illiterate)
m. Highest educational level attained
n. Whether attending educational institution
o. If the person is physically or mentally disabled, mention the type of disability.
2. Characteristics of Workers and Non-Workers:
a. Did the person work any time last year? (includes even part time help or unpaid work on farm, family enterprise or in any other economic activity)-Main Worker, i.e., who worked for six months or more or Marginal Worker, i.e., who worked for less than six months or Non-Worker who did not work at all.
b. Economic Activity of the Main or Marginal Worker:
i. Category of the economic activity of the Main or Marginal Worker (Cultivator or Agricultural Labourer or Worker in Household Industry or Other Worker)
ii. Occupation of the person
iii. Nature of industry, trade or service where the person works or worked or of self-employment
c. Class of Worker (Employer or Employee or Single Worker or Family Worker)
d. If Marginal Worker or Non-Worker, category of non-economic activity (Student or Household duties or Dependent or Pensioner or Beggar or other)
e. If Marginal Worker or Non-Worker whether seeking or available for work
f. Travel to work place (for other Workers only)
i. Distance from residence to place of work
ii. Mode of travel to place of work
3. For Household Engaged in Cultivation or Plantation Work:
a. Total net area of land under cultivation/plantation
b. Net area of irrigated land
c. Tenure status of land under cultivation/plantation.
4. Migration Characteristics:
a. Birth Place
i. Within India (present name of the State/District) and Outside India (present name of the Country)
b. Place of last residence
i. Within India (present name of the State/District) and Outside India (present name of the Country)
ii. Status of the last place of residence at the time of migration (Rural or Urban)
iii. Reason for migration
iv. Duration of stay in the village/town (in completed years)
5. Fertility Particulars:
a. Fertility (forever married women only):
i. Number of children surviving at present
ii. Total number of children ever born alive (for currently married women only)
iii. Number of children born alive during last one year.
The Household Schedule contained 23 questions having 39 columns which is shown in the attached Table 2 A and B. It was divided into three parts – Part I related to Local Particulars, Part II to Individual Particulars and Part III to Households engaged in cultivation/plantation.
After completing the Population Enumeration, in the remaining process of Census operations, the enumerator submitted to the Office-Incharge of his respective District the Enumerator’s Abstract of his Enumeration Block and Household Schedule forms for normal, institutional and houseless households separately.
The District Officer sent these to the State headquarter who in turn, forwarded the entire material to the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, Government of India, New Delhi. The latter compiled the entire information and published it in the form of Census Tables with a summary relating to each.
Source # 2. Civil Registration System:
The Civil Registration System is another important source of demographic data in India. The registration of deaths was started in India by the British in the middle of the 19th century. The death rate was very high in those days due to bad sanitary and public health conditions and lack of adequate medical facilities.
The Sanitary Commissioner of the Government of India in his report in 1863 recommended the collection of information of death rate and causes of diseases leading to deaths in order to undertake sanitary reforms.
The system of registration of deaths and causes responsible for them was started in the Central Provinces of British India in 1866. The Bengal Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1873 was the first law to be implemented which was later extended to Bihar, Orissa and Punjab. The registration of births and deaths was efficiently done in Bengal and Punjab.
It was in 1886 that the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act was enacted for the whole of British India. But this law was not effective because registration was optional under it. However, registration of births and deaths continued in towns and cities with Municipal Committees.
But in rural areas, the registration was done under the Revenue Codes and Police Manuals in those cases which fell under their jurisdictions. The main aim of such registrations was to collect information in order to control diseases and epidemics.
The registration of births, deaths and marriages in India began in right earnest with the establishment of the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner in May 1949. It has the Vital Statistical Division which collects reliable data of births and deaths and evaluates the methods of data collection by different government agencies.
It also holds meetings and discussions at different levels with State organisations to make the registration method more effective and reliable.
In India at present, it is compulsory to inform and register births and deaths. The information regarding birth or still birth has to be registered within 7 days of the event and regarding death within 2 days. The registration is done by Municipal Committees, Municipal Corporations, Town Area Committees, and Notified Area Committees in towns throughout India.
The same work is being done by the Village Panchayats in rural areas. These, in turn, send the data to the Vital Statistical Division of the Office for the Registrar General and Census Commissioner for tabulation and publishing.
Despite the compulsory registration of births and deaths in India, not all births and deaths are reported, especially in rural areas. About 70 per cent of population still resides in villages where people are mostly illiterate. They do not understand the importance of registering these vital events. There is little need for birth and death certificates for them.
Source # 3. Sample Surveys:
Sample survey is an important method of collecting demographic data in India. In a sample survey, information is collected from a few members (sample) of population for the purpose of finding out fertility, mortality, growth, etc. of population which is then applied to the population as a whole.
It is a cheaper method than the census covering the entire population. A sample survey can also be held at a short time interval than a census of population.
The National Sample Survey (NSS) was set up in 1950 to conduct sample surveys for the collection of data relating to some social and economic aspects of the Indian economy. In the initial rounds, it collected information about fertility, mortality, population growth, family planning, etc. among other surveys.
In 1970, the NSS was reorganised into National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) which does not carry out sample surveys relating to population in India.
Earlier in 1963-64, the Sample Registration System (SRS) was started in India under the Registrar General of India to provide estimates of birth and death rates and growth rates of population. The Sample Registration System is a large scale demographic survey which is conducted in India at the national and sub-national levels, separately for rural and urban areas.
Under this system, continuous enumeration of births and deaths is done by a resident part time enumerator who is generally a teacher and works as a field investigator, followed by an independent survey every six months by an official.
The data obtained through these operations are matched. There are reverified procedures of this fieldwork for unmatched and partially matched events. After reverifying the data, unduplicated count of births and deaths are collected.
In 1964-65 on a pilot basis, the Sample Registration system was started in a few selected States by the Office of the Registrar General of India. During 1969- 70 this system became fully operational which covered about 3,700 sample units. After that the sample size has been increased periodically.
Recently, the frame was updated on the basis of 1991 Census data. Every year sample survey results are published in June and October which indicate vital rates.
In rural areas, the sample unit is a village or a segment of it, if the village has a population of 1500 or more. The sample unit in urban areas is a census enumeration block with a population between 750 and 1000. At present the Sample Registration System covers 4,436 and 2,235 sample units in rural and urban areas respectively.
Thus 6,671 sample units (1.1 million household and around 6 million population) have been covered by SRS in all the States and Union Territories of India. The Sample Registration System is one of the reliable methods of collecting population data in India in-between two population censuses.