Apparently in keeping with the need of the time, Census enumeration or head counts, taken after every ten years, is today not only about calculating the number of bonafide citizens of the land, but is also an index of the citizens’ profile, which includes among others the standard of living, access to primary health and primary education, literacy rate etc. It is to primarily get a clearer picture of the India in the second decade of the new millennium that the 2011 Census is being conducted in two phases. The first phase started on June 15, 2010 and it covered households and houselistings. To the urbane population, when the first phase kicked into live, it appeared that their privacy was being compromised as the questions ranged from not only the number of families living under one roof, but also the number of people sharing a common toilet or bathroom. With the increasing number of nuclear families with their own kitchens and monthly budgets, but nonetheless sharing the same roof under the grand patriach of the family, these questions are bound to arise. The first phase also entailed getting personal information such as one’s educational qualification, vocation, the type of vehicle one drives, whether television, radio and other hi-tech electronic gizmos such as the lap top or a personal computer, accessibility to the internet and of course the number of mobile phones that each family may possess. This is not just an exercise in collecting figures, but is also an attempt to study how the average Indians live in the post liberalisation days, in short in these days of electronic communication, e-mails, sms, mobile phones, i-pad, internet etc. The data or record collected during such a drive will also come in very handy for Mr Nandan Nilekani, the man from Infosys, in his mission to come out with the Unique Identity Card for all bonafide Indian citizens, which will not only help in identifying bogus citizens but also help in plugging loopholes in the civil administration such as the Public Distribution System and during times of election. It therefore stands that the decadal exercise of Census enumeration is not merely totting up the number of people living in the country but is also about collecting information and records, which reflect the living conditions of the average Indian. In short it is a handy means to call the bluff of political leaders, who have been beaming under the assumption that India is right on the track of development. All these works cannot be done without sweat and grime and will power. So it is not surprising that a work force of 25 lakhs, drawn primarily from the Government Departments, have been requisitioned to conduct the two phased Census exercise job. Another significant point in the latest Census exercise is the inclusion of Caste following immense pressure and lobbying from political parties and political heavy weights such as Mulayam Singh.
There is nothing amiss in including Caste in the Census per se, but we have already witnessed how Caste has been used to extract political mileage and in Laloo Yadav we have a living example of how Caste equation can be politicised to such an extent that it led Bihar to the dogs. Apart from the purely political point, what is important is to note the social implications that Caste has played in Indian society for so long. The honour killing, which has literally stained the ground of North India with innocent bloods of their own children, should be enough lessons to teach us that the new millennium has no place for such an archaic concept as Caste. But here we are stepping into the second decade of the new millennium with the extra baggage of Caste. Let’s hope it ends there. Covering a billion plus population spread over a land area 29,73,190 square kilometres is certainly not a joke. Lakhs of Government employees sent across the nook and corner of country, some to places where there is literally no road communication, or basic amenities of life means a whole lot of detailed planning, with no room for mistakes or error. The financial expense that an operation of such a magnitude will entail can only be imagined. The second phase of the Census is now on, beginning from February 9 this year, and it would do good for all to co-operate and positively respond to the drive taken up to determine the population of the State and of course, we do not need to remind the Government that the farce of 2001 is not repeated, the scars of which are yet to heal completely. Apart from the general election which comes every five years, it is the Census exercise, which stretches the Government to its limit, both in terms of its resources and man power, plus the expertise needed. Let the wheel of the largest democracy and the land with the second highest population in the world start rolling. And let’s also put in some efforts to ensure that the Government at least frames its policies and programmes according to the findings of the first phase of the Census, which sought to reflect the lifestyle of the average Indian. Come to think about it, isn’t there something seriously wrong, when a good number of Indians still defecate in the open ? It is the current Census which will give some idea of how many of the billion plus population defecate in the open.