My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Posts Tagged ‘India’

The Census in India…

Monday, May 31st, 2010

If you think enumerating 300 million people is hard, imagine what it’s like to enumerate 1.2 billion people in a developing country. This is the task that India is currently trying to perform. While there isn’t much backlash over the act of participating in the census (which is a responsibility of civil service workers rather than people hired specifically to work as temporary employees of the census), there are some issues over how caste, the old school Indian class system, should be factored into this count. I’ve been reading about this issue for about a month now and discussing it with Indian friends. I was waiting for the right moment to mention it here, but now that the Associated Press has written about it, it seems to be the appropriate time:

NEW DELHI — Bollywood’s biggest star has an answer ready if census workers ask about his caste: “Indian.’’

“My father never believed in caste, and neither do any of us,’’ Amitabh Bachchan wrote in his obsessively followed blog.

Comments like Bachchan’s are common in modern India, which prides itself on how it has transcended some of its most rigid traditions — and those beliefs are being heard more often as the government debates whether the national census should delve into caste.

But Joseph D’Souza doesn’t believe such talk for a moment.

“There’s a lot of lip service to saying ‘I’m an Indian first,’ and ‘I don’t believe in caste,’ ’’ said D’Souza, a prominent campaigner for dalits, as India’s “untouchables’’ at the very bottom of the caste system are now known.

“When it comes to sharing power, to interaction, to sharing social status, low-caste Indians are very much marginalized,’’ he said, arguing the census could provide firm data about the vast divisions.

India’s census, being held in stages over the next year or so, delves into the wealth, living conditions, and other personal details of the country’s 1.2 billion people. But still undecided is one question — “What is your caste?’’ — that has infuriated much of India’s elite, energized caste-based political parties, and left in doubt millions of government jobs and university slots.

The debate has also made very clear that caste, the Hindu custom that for millennia has divided people in a strict social hierarchy based on their family’s traditional livelihood and ethnicity, remains a deeply sensitive subject. (more…)

India kicks off world’s biggest head count

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

I spent some time in India in December/January of this year, and let me tell you, if you think we’ve got a tough time counting people in America, it’s going to be one hundred times worse in India where people live on the streets, in train stations, and oftentimes change residences frequently. Good luck to our colleagues in India, because they’re going to need it…

From the Associated Press:

By NIRMALA GEORGE (AP) – 1 hour ago

NEW DELHI — India kicked off the national census of its billion-plus population Thursday with a 2.5 million strong army of census-takers fanning out across the country to conduct what has been billed the world’s largest administrative exercise.

The census, conducted every 10 years, has a new element this year with the collection of biometric data in which every citizen over the age of 15 will be photographed and fingerprinted, information that will form the base of a new National Population Register of the country’s 1.2 billion population.

“It is for the first time in human history that an attempt is being made to identify, count, enumerate and record and eventually issue an identity card to 1.2 billion people,” Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said.

So far, India has not had a system of issuing a national identity number or card to its citizens. The collection of biometric data using a combination of fingerprint and facial identification will be linked with another massive exercise launched last year to ensure that every Indian gets assigned a single identity number.

President Pratibha Patil marked the start of the 11-month exercise Thursday at her pink sandstone presidential palace, which became the first household to be listed for the first phase of the census known as ‘houselisting.’

Over the next six months, census-takers, or ‘enumerators,’ will travel across more than 630,000 villages and over 5,000 cities in the country to visit every structure that serves as a home to put together a national data base. From skyscrapers to tin shanties, census takers will note details such as the availability of drinking water and electricity, and the type of construction material used for a comprehensive picture of housing stock in India.

The census-takers also plan to include millions of homeless people who sleep on railway platforms, under bridges and in parks.

Census-takers are typically government officials, school teachers or other local officials who go home-to-home collecting data on the size of families, marital status, education and work information. For the first time, they also will count bank account holders and cell phone users.

While China, the world’s most populous country, also counts its population, its census is carried out by various agencies, including Communist Party units, commune leaders and factory heads, unlike the New Delhi-based Registrar and Census Commission that carries out India’s count.

India’s census will face a special challenge from left-wing extremists active in 20 of the country’s 28 states who have stepped up a campaign of violent attacks on government officials.

The census-takers plan to finish their work by February 2011. The information will be used for government policymaking, planning and budget allocations.

This will be India’s 15th census being held without interruption at the turn of every decade. Census operations in India were started in 1872 by British colonial rulers.