History of Census in India | British Census | Pothonpathon.online


👉 History of Census in India

  • Census is one of the oldest activities of the governments in India and has begun regularly as early as in 1881.
  • It is India’s single largest administrative exercise, even though it is undertaken once in ten years.
  • Census has a long history behind it, is primarily used for the purpose of taxation.
  • Kautilya’s Arthashastra, written in 300 B.C., emphasized census taking as a measure of state policy for collecting taxes.
  • Census is discussed in detail in chapter 35, which deals with the duty of the revenue collector.
  • While defining his functions, Kautilya writes- “he shall also keep an account of the number of young and old men that reside in each house, their history, occupation, income and expenditure.

  👉 British Census in India

  • The British Indian Census had its roots in the general trend of the government to gather statistical information and the evolution of the census in England in the 18th century.
  • There were concerns in England about poverty and the need for relief for poor people. There was also anxiety regarding population decline due to war and epidemics.
  • These concerns resulted in organizing the census regularly in England. Slowly the census has become part of the 18th-century government along with the trend of registering births, deaths and marriages.
  • In 1877, the government appointed a committee to suggest measures for a general census in India in 1881.
  • W.C. Plowden was the chairman of the committee, and H. Boverly and W.R. Cornish were members of that committee. The Plowden Committee submitted its report in 1878.
  • According to this report, there should be one controlling officer who should supervise the census enumeration in different provinces.
  • Under this officer, who might be designated as the Census Commissioner of India, a deputy should be employed in each province to supervise the census work there.
  • One identical time was to be fixed for conducting the census throughout India.
  • The committee recommended the early part of February 1881, within two or three days of the full moon, as the best date for census operation.
  • No more than three hundred persons or sixty houses were to be allotted to one enumerator, and a supervisor was to look after every ten enumerators.
  • The committee suggested special legislation to back up the decennial census and secure more governmental control over the enumerators and the enumerated.
  • The committee also warned against the use of police force for census work.
  • The agency undertaking the enumeration and supervision was not to be paid.
  • The payment to the enumerating staff may create suspicion among the people regarding the motives behind the census.
  • The Plowden Committee report is the most important document on census taking in India by providing an administrative framework.
  • The Plowden Committee report is the most important document on census taking in India by providing an administrative framework.
  • The first general census was taken on 17th February 1881 and the provisional population combined in six months was 208,202,050.
  • The 1881 census included age, sex, civil or conjugal condition, religion, caste, birthplace, mother tongue, degree of education, occupation and infirmities.
  • The information on ‘age’ and ‘caste’ posed considerable problems to the census authorities as the exact age was unknown to many people, and the same caste was often known by different names at different places.
  • The report was published in 1883 in three volumes.
  • This census report also mentions the existence of female infanticide in some parts of India.

 👉 The organizational structure is recommended by the Plowden committee : 

Census Commissioner of India 
Superintendent of Census Operations 
District Officers 
Sub Divisional Officers (Tehsil Officers)
Revenue circle paragana
Village Patwar 

In India, the district serves as the primary administrative division. It was both economical and acceptable to include the district collector, sub divisional officer, tehsildar, and patwari in the census task. 

A district was to be broken into smaller units, coinciding with lower revenue divisions, and each village, hamlet, and home was to be given its own designation. To conduct the census, no new agency was to be established. Instead, the already-in-use administrative infrastructure, which the people of India were accustomed to, was to be utilized. The favoured enumerator was the Patwari.

The census timetable or calendar, which details the order and anticipated length of each of the census's component procedures, was created. Additionally, this made it easier to track how each census operation stage was doing. Numerous people were involved in the census administration. In the 1901 census, there were 9872 tabulators, 122,503 supervisors, and 1,325,478 enumerators who made up the lower-level field bureaucracy.

👉  Rumours about Census : 

When the British government implemented the census in India, there were a lot of rumours. The following are some of the rumours that have been circulating in various Indian provinces: 
The reason why the census was done at night raised further questions. 
A well-known criminal had escaped, and the census was a tactic to catch him. The government wanted to identify men who would be suitable for the Afghan War. The administration was searching for young wives for British soldiers.
Numerology was unlucky and the deaths that followed the preliminary records were due to this; some enumerators went around collecting fees in the name of the government on the night of the census. The plague was to be introduced to thin out people where they were too dense. Indians were wanted to colonise a distant settlement. Every fourth man was to be taken to build an enormous fort.

The 1871 census's schedule was condensed, asking only six questions on age, sex, religion or caste, race or tribe, occupation, and infirmities. Age, sex, civil or marital status, religion, caste, place of birth, mother tongue, level of education, employment, and infirmities were all included in the 1881 census. The census authorities faced significant challenges in gathering the data on "age" and "caste," as many people did not know their exact ages and the same caste was frequently referred to by different names depending on where they lived.

A Census Commissioner is in charge of both administrative and statistical duties. The administrative duties are extensive, intricate, and varied; they include choosing the provincial heads of the census, providing them with administrative assistance, setting the date of the census, and putting together and activating the census organisation.

👉 Census Commissioners of British India

1881 W.C. Plowden
1891 J.A. Baines
1901 H.H. Risely till September 1902
         E.A. Gait from September 1902 
1911 E.A. Gait
1921 J.T. Martin
1931 J.H. Hutton
1941 M.W.M. Yeatts
1951 M.W.M. Yeatts up to 2 July 1949
         R.A. Gopalaswami from November 1949

👉 Census Religion and Politics 

Can the census be viewed as a "statement" of colonial viewpoints and policies? Is it possible to use the census volumes as a source to reflect the "official mind"? Why did the British government go to the effort of frequently conducting censuses? The British and Indian censuses can be compared to find both remarkable parallels and discrepancies. Divergence was greatest when religion was concerned. The British census showed a strong indifference in religion and a strong unwillingness to delve into its specifics. In contrast, the Indian census used religion as one of its essential categories from the beginning (K.W. Jones, 1981). The census workers were enthralled by religion and all things religious. Sikhs were included in the definition of "Hindu" in the first Punjab census, but by the second, they were given their own category. It is a formal acknowledgement of Sikh religion. The census's interactions with its participants must be viewed in light of recent advancements and escalating religious rivalry. Using data from the Punjab Census of 1881, a Hindu organisation refuted claims made by a Muslim group that Hindus held an disproportionate number of government jobs in 1881. Census data from 1881 were also used to show the degree of Christian conversion. Based on the official evidence of the census, anxieties that had existed before to reading census reports received a tangible form. In the 1891 census, the Arya Samaj urged its adherents to write "ARYA" rather than "Hindu." They exerted pressure on census workers to acknowledge and document this shift in religion. Hindu leaders showed that all Hindus would vanish from British India in a specific amount of time using data from the 1872 to 1901 censuses. M.C.J.O’ Donnel, Census Commissioner of Bengal for 1891 census calculated ‘the number of years it would take the Hindus to totally disappear from Bengal, if Muhammadan increase kept on at the pace it was doing’.The geographic distribution of the religious communities and the areas where they are either the majority or minority were mapped. Numerous descriptive and statistical reports of religious conversion and re-conversion were supplied by the census. However, the emergence of new religious movements and sects within all religious communities brought about a more thorough treatment of religious divisions.

Census reports offered details on the economic and educational backgrounds of participants and analysed the relative effectiveness of each movement. A particular religion's subdivisions received the same consideration as the parent religion. These new groupings receive a feeling of legitimacy from the census. The census produced a new definition of religion, and the literate Indians would then get this new conceptualization through the census results. The census was more well known to educated Indians in the latter two decades of the 19th century as they looked to it for an authoritative image of their own world, a vision that validated many of their aspirations and worries. Hindu leaders also had serious concerns about the census's methods and terminology. Gait, the Census Commissioner, later proposed a different set of tables in 1911 to list the "debatable Hindus."

Many Hindu leaders believed that their group was the target of an Anglo-Muslim scheme. The census had gradually changed from being a passive and impartial tool to collect data for a foreign authority to a bureaucratic organisation linked to the allocation of political favour and power. It became become a battleground for politics and religion. Leaders of the Hindu and Muslim faiths both handily advanced their cases and arguments by using the "selected" data from census reports. A separate electorate for Muslims was created using census data, for example. This established a clear, official connection between the census, the religious community, and political influence. The allocation of political power and, to some extent, government favouritism was based on the census. In the early 20th century, this became more and more obvious.

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