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Census first phase, NPR data collection put off till September

First phase of Census 2021 was postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19 pandemic

The first phase of the census and collection of details to update the National Population Register (NPR) have been postponed at least till September.

The Registrar General of India (RGI) had in December informed the States that freezing of boundaries of districts, sub-districts, tehsils, talukas, police stations etc. has been postponed till June 2022 , said a senior official on Sunday.

Freezing of boundary limits of administrative units, at least three months prior, is a pre-requisite for conducting the census. Even if the RGI issues an order in June to freeze the boundaries again, the exercise can take place only in September.

Finalisation of administrative units entails covering all jurisdictional changes in an administrative area between two consecutive censuses. According to provisional data compiled by the RGI till June 2021 and accessed by The Hindu , the number of districts has gone up from 640 in 2011 to 736.

The sub-districts are up from 5,925 to 6,754, statutory towns from 4,041 to 4,657, census towns from 3,892 to 5,050 but villages have decreased from 6,40,934 in 2011 to 6,39,083 in 2021.

The first phase of Census 2021 — the Houselisting and Housing Census along with updating the NPR — was scheduled to be held from April-September, 2020 but was postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The second and main phase of the decennial exercise — the population enumeration — was to be concluded by March 5, 2021.

There was a ban on States to create new administrative units from January 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021.

The RGI informed the States in July 2020 that after the outbreak of the pandemic, the field work of the first phase of Census 2021 and the other related activities have been postponed until further orders. “Subsequent to the postponement of census activities, requests were received from several State/Union Territory governments seeking clarifications/permission for creation/extension/up-gradation of different administrative units. Hence, it was decided to extend the date of freezing of boundaries up to December 31, 2020,” an RGI order said. It said if any changes in the administrative boundaries are to be made, it may be be effected latest by December 31, 2020.

However, it was extended again till December 31,2021. The fresh date is June 30, 2022.

For Census 2021, all the changes between January 1, 2010 i.e. after the date of freezing of boundaries for Census 2011 up to the date of freezing of boundaries for forthcoming exercise (presently up to June 30, 2022) are to be considered for finalising the administrative units.

The preparation of an unambiguous list of administrative units is termed as “Census Frame” covering the entire area but without omission or duplication of any administrative unit at any level.

The NPR was first compiled in 2010 and updated in 2015 and it already has a database of 119 crore residents. It was to be updated along with the first phase of census. The exercise has been opposed by some States and citizen groups as the NPR is the first step towards compilation of the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRC) according to the Citizenship Rules, 2003.

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