Largest-ever census operation begins

The process will involve collecting details from a population of 1.2 billion and a National Population Register will be set up

The biggest census ever to be attempted in human history to cover India's 1.2 billion population began today with president Pratibha Patil being the first to be enumerated in the decennial exercise.

The 15th National Census exercise, which will see over 25 lakh officials capturing the socio-economic-cultural profile of its citizens, will also seek information for the creation of the National Population Register (NPR).

“My appeal to all brothers and sisters of the country is to wholeheartedly take part in the preparation of the first-ever NPR. It is important for the nation as well as you,” Ms Patil said after a delegation of the census officials took down her information.

The delegation included registrar-general and census commissioner C Chandramouli and deputy director-general, NPR, S K Chakraborty.

Union home minister P Chidambaram, who was also present at the Rashtrapati Bhavan said that it is the first time in human history that 1.2 billion people are being provided I-cards after being identified, counted and enumerated.

“This exercise must succeed and will succeed. We will leave no stone unturned to visit every village, every habitation in the country,” he said, appealing to civil society, teachers, parents and authorities to take part in this exercise.

The census operation would cost around Rs2,209 crore while the approved cost of the scheme for creation of the NPR is Rs3,539.24 crore.

During the mammoth exercise, the enumerators for the first time will collect information like ownership of mobile phones, computers, internet, and those parts having treated or untreated drinking water facilities.

The enumerators will also seek additional information like name, age, sex, date of birth, besides other details, for the creation of the NPR.

The government has made it clear that no information will be collected on castes as no caste-based census has ever been conducted in independent India.

“We will fill a separate form and give each covered under the census a receipt which will have a number. Once all the information is digitalised, we will hold designated camps across the country where one can give fingerprints of 10 fingers and photograph by showing their receipt,” Mr Chakraborty said.

He said that the fingerprints would be then passed on to the Unique Identification Authority of India, who after checking for re-duplication will assign a 16-digit unique number to each which will then be part of the NPR card to be issued.

Asked by when the first NPR card would roll out, he said it would be done by 2011 end. The fingerprints and photographs will help the government formulate plans and strengthen the country's security.

The NPR will bring the entire population of the country under one database.

Explaining the census procedures, Mr Chandramouli said that it would be conducted in two phases. The first phase, called the ‘House listing and Housing Census’, will be conducted between April and July, depending on the convenience of different States and Union territories.

This exercise is to be conducted over a period of 45 days in each state or Union territory, he said.

The second phase, called the ‘Population Enumeration Phase’, will be conducted simultaneously all over the country from 9th February to 28th February (2011), and the entire exercise would be completed by 5 March 2011.

The Census would cover all 640 districts, 5,767 tehsils, 7,742 towns and more than six lakh villages. More than 24 crore households will be visited and 1.20 billion people enumerated during this exercise.

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