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India’s 2021 census to be digitally conducted

The Indian Home Minister recently announced that the country’s 2021 population census will be conducted through a mobile phone application as a part of the Digital India initiative.

The app will provide socio-economic data, which will contribute to informed policy formulation and the appropriate allocation of resources.

The government said the move away from the traditional paper-based method of data collection is a revolutionary step for India’s census exercise.

The census will be carried out in 16 languages at a cost of IN ₹12,000 crores (about US $1.69 billion). Citizens will be able to upload their details to the mobile app.

The Minister noted that the app is being developed indigenously for collecting the data from Android phones. He called for a system that automatically updates population information when a person dies.

The changing demography and socio-economic parameters reflected by the census help to reformulate the country’s plans for economic development and welfare schemes for its people, the home secretary said.

Almost 3.3 million enumerators, officials who conduct door-to-door counting, will be mobilised for data collection. A pre-test of the 2021 census began on 12 August and will go on till the end of this month.

The census is scheduled to start around March 2021 and will be conducted in two phases. For the snow-bound areas of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the reference date shall be the first day of October 2020.

Also, the Home Minister announced the possible launch of a multipurpose identity card through a National Population Register (NPR). He said although that the government does not have a scheme to introduce this type of technology, it is a possibility. The ID would include a citizen’s passport, Aadhaar, and voter card, eliminating the need for multiple identifications.

The objective, according to the Indian census website, is to develop a comprehensive identity database with identification and other details by registering every usual resident in the country. It aims to prevent and reduce fraud.

Earlier this year, the government said it would prepare an NPR by September 2020 as the basis for a citizens’ register across the country, which could lead to the launch of a pan-India National Register of Citizens exercise.

From data collected in the 2011 census, the government had planned 22 welfare schemes to provide electricity and gas to every home, support for the construction of roads, houses for the poor, creation of more toilets, and bank branches in rural parts of the country.

Also, the 2011 census reflected the poor male to female sex ratio in some states, which was why the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao scheme was launched.

Similarly, the government expects this next census to help plan its social welfare and entitlement schemes better. It will also help to demarcate the boundaries of municipal wards, assemblies, and Lok Sabha constituencies.

India’s 1.3 billion population should be informed about government schemes, the Home Minister said. The census data could be used for future planning and the development of initiatives and welfare schemes. The utilisation of census data is multidimensional and will be a significant contribution to the nation’s progress.

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