India’s scheduled 2021 decennial census has been postponed for the first time probably, and no new date has been announced. It was originally scheduled to be held in April-May 2021, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ramifications of this, according to experts, might include excluding people from social programmes and improperly allocating resources. Aside from its direct influence on welfare programmes, the census also contributes to the data base from which other significant studies, including the National Sample Survey (NSS) and the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), draw their samples. Researchers like us are also entirely dependent on the Census data for constructing sampling frame for our social research studies and impact evaluations for social interventions.

Let me briefly discuss a few fundamentals regarding the Indian census. The Census is a significant undertaking that entails gathering and analysing comprehensive demographic and socioeconomic data from every region of the nation. Before delivering the final results, the data processing and validation must be finished, which might take months or even years. The Census of India is often done in two stages: the first stage involves collection of data on the house-listing and housing characteristics, and the second stage involves gathering information on population characteristics. Following the conclusion of both phases, the data is painstakingly processed and subjected to a number of quality checks to guarantee accuracy and completeness.

Let me now discuss some of the serious repercussions of the 2021 Census’s missing data. The government’s capacity to make data-driven policy decisions and plan for the future has been significantly impacted by the 2021 Census’s delay. Currently, the government is using obsolete data from the 2011 Census to make judgements. The government will have a better picture of the state of the Indian population today because to the 2021 Census’s considerably more precise and current data. Here are 10 potential impacts of the missing numbers of 2021 Census data for India:


Inaccurate planning and allocation of resources

The population of each state and union territory, as well as information on their demographics, are derived from the Census data. Planning for topics like infrastructure expansion, educational reform, and healthcare all make use of this data. It is challenging for the government to decide how to allocate resources without precise Census data potentially leading to skewed policies and misallocation of resources.


Impaired Demographic Analysis

Population growth, fertility rates, mortality rates, and migration patterns can all be studied using census data. Missing information would hinder demographic analysis, make it difficult to identify vulnerable populations, evaluate trends, and plan for the requirements of particular age groups.


Educational Planning

In order to estimate the number of children in school-age, the literacy rate, and educational gaps across different geographic areas, census data is crucial for educational planning. It would be challenging to address educational inequalities effectively without the data.


Healthcare and Public Health Planning

Planning healthcare facilities, assessing disease loads, and determining healthcare requirements all depend on accurate demographic statistics. Missing Census data could make it more difficult to deploy healthcare funds wisely, especially in times of pandemic-related public health emergency.


Urban Planning

Data from the census are useful for understanding trends in urbanisation, population density, and housing requirements. Urban planners would have a difficult time creating effective infrastructure and meeting the needs of the urban population without the data from the 2021 Census.


Socioeconomic Development

Data from the census are used to evaluate socioeconomic indices, income inequality, and poverty levels. Missing data would make it more difficult to develop targeted programmes to reduce poverty and evaluate the success of current social welfare programmes.


Environmental Planning

The effects of population on the environment, including resource consumption, waste production, and pollution levels, are studied using census data. Lack of information might make it difficult to develop sustainable environmental policy.


Economic Planning

Analysis of employment patterns, occupational distributions, and the economic impact of the informal sector are all done using census data. It would be difficult to create efficient economic policies and strategies with missing data.


Research and Policy Evaluation

For numerous research projects and policy analyses, census data serves as an essential baseline. Missing data may make it more difficult to evaluate the success of past initiatives and make evidence-based decisions.


Business planning

The delay in the Census could have a negative impact on the business in India. To make informed decisions about where to invest and how to grow, businesses require precise data. Businesses may be less likely to invest in India without proper Census data.

The missing numbers of India’s census data from 2021 would have a significant impact on a number of the nation’s development and policy-making processes. For the government to be able to make informed decisions and prepare effectively, it is crucial to give the Census top priority and to carry it out as soon as possible.

Author: Paresh Kumar, CEO & Co-founder, DevInsights