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2023 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

24. Reforming the Indian Census

Authors : P. G. Babu, Vikas Kumar

Published in: India’s Contemporary Macroeconomic Themes

Publisher: Springer Nature Singapore

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Abstract

Newly independent India embarked on an ambitious project to transform the economy and society through five-year plans, but it did not have adequate data for this purpose. The government built a three-tier statistical system that aligned with the federal and decentralized structure of the polity. Over the following decades, the statistical system and economic planning grew hand in hand. When the economy was unevenly liberalized in the early 1990s, the statistical system was not restructured. This was a consequence of oversight as well as budget constraints due to structural adjustment. It is in this context that the government constituted the National Statistical Commission under the chairmanship of Dr. C. Rangarajan in January 2000. The commission submitted its report in August 2001. The commission recommended an overhaul of the country's statistical system that led to the formation of the National Statistical Commission in 2005–06. A decade later, Dr. Rangarajan headed the Expert Group to Formulate a Jobs Plan for the State of Jammu and Kashmir (2010–11) that commented on the poor quality of data on employment. The quality of India's official statistics has been an abiding concern of Dr. Rangarajan. We would, therefore, like to use this occasion to discuss reforms to the decennial human population census.

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Footnotes
1
See Article 55 (Manner of Election of the President), Article 81 (Composition of the House of the People), Article 82 (Readjustment after each census), Article 170 (Composition of the Legislative Assemblies), Article 243 (The Panchayats) and Article 243P (Municipal bodies).
 
2
See Article 330 (Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People) and Article 332 (Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States).
 
3
The census data is also required for implementing policies under Article 350 (Language to be used in representations for redress of grievances), Article 350A (Facilities for instruction in mother-tongue at primary stage) and Article 350B (Special Officer for linguistic minorities).
 
4
The High Level Evaluation Committee (1983) chaired by A.M. Khusro and the Workshop on Modernization of the Statistical System in India (1998) had highlighted the need for reforms in the 1980s and 1990s. See Srinivasan (2003) and Vidwans (2003a, b) for a critical review of the report of the National Statistical Commission.
 
5
The design of census legislation and the quality of metadata have been discussed in Kumar (2020, 2023a, 2023b) and Kumar (2021), respectively.
 
6
In the United States, ‘In 1940… only about nine percent of the federal budget was distributed as grants to states and localities. But by the early 1970s, that percentage had nearly doubled, and today such funds… make up about one-fifth of state and local revenues. Where these billions get spent is largely determined by congressionally mandated formulas using statistics’ and ‘the U.S. government alone spends $1.4 billion a year collecting statistics’ (Alonso and Starr 1985: 93–94). And ‘By the 1990s, the United States spent 6% of GDP on measurement’ (Porter 1995: 28). This also applies to developing countries. However, similar estimates are not available for developing countries due to the highly informal character of the economy. Formalization has increased in the more recent decades but a large part of it has happened outside the public sector and a lot of data is now being co-produced along with routine operations of various government and non-governmental organizations.
 
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Metadata
Title
Reforming the Indian Census
Authors
P. G. Babu
Vikas Kumar
Copyright Year
2023
Publisher
Springer Nature Singapore
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-5728-6_24