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Covid set to delay Census 2021 as Modi govt decides against holding operations this year

States have been allowed to change administrative boundaries until 31 December, effectively ruling out any census operations in this calendar year.

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New Delhi: Census 2021 is all set to be delayed on account of the Covid-19 pandemic with the Narendra Modi government ruling out any census operations until December.

The decision comes at a time when the Covid cases are rising in the country unabated and the peak is still a while away.

In a letter to the states, Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India Vivek Joshi has extended the date for the states to make changes to administrative boundaries until 31 December.

Typically, while census operations are conducted — both the houselisting phase and the population enumeration — states are asked to not change boundaries of their districts, towns, villages and tehsils.

In September last year, the government had asked states to complete the process of any such changes by December 2019 to ensure smooth conduct of the census operations in 2020 and 2021. But with the onset of the Covid pandemic, it has now allowed states to make any such boundary changes until 31 December.

“The boundaries of the administrative units for the ensuing census will now be frozen on 31 December 2020,” said the letter to the chief secretaries of states dated 28 July.

It requested states to ensure that no changes are made after 31 December until the census is over pointing out that “finalization of administrative units is a pre-requisite for successful conduct of Census”. The Print has accessed a copy of the letter.

The decadal census is the largest data collection exercise carried out by India and is crucial to assess not only the growth of the population but also their access to basic facilities such as drinking water, sanitation, housing and electricity. The last census was held in 2011.

ThePrint reached Joshi via a call and a text but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.

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‘No operations this year’

Speaking to ThePrint, a census official who didn’t wish to be identified said, “This letter effectively implies that there will be no census operations in the current calendar year.”

According to the Centre’s pre-Covid plan, the houselisting census was slated to be held between April and September this year with the states having the option of choosing a 45-day window in this period to conduct the houselisting survey.

The population enumeration would have then followed the houselisting census in the last three-week period of 9 to 28 February 2021.

The houselisting and housing census provides data on housing and other amenities and assets available to the households. The data collected through the houselisting census is used to carve out the enumeration blocks, which are then used in the population enumeration phase.

However, with the outbreak of the pandemic, the central government had little choice but to suspend all census operations. Safety of enumerators and the danger of the infection’s spread through these enumerators are some of the reasons for the Centre’s decision to put the process on hold, ThePrint had reported in July.

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