Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India

Last updated

Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India
Demographics of India.jpg
Demographics of India
HeadquartersJai Sing Road New Delhi-110001
Region served
Registrar General & Census Commissioner
Vivek Joshi [1]
Parent organisation
Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India
India population density. India population density map en.svg
India population density.

Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, founded in 1961 by Government of India Ministry of Home Affairs, for arranging, conducting and analysing the results of the demographic surveys of India including Census of India and Linguistic Survey of India. The position of Registrar is usually held by a civil servant holding the rank of Joint Secretary.


RGCCI (population survey and language survey) as well as ASI (archaeology), AnSI (Anthropological Survey of India), BSI (botany), FSI (forests), FiSI (fisheries), GSI (geology), IIEE (ecology), NIO (oceanography), SI (cartography) and ZSI (zoology) are key national survey organisations of India.


The Indian Census is the largest single source of a variety of statistical information on different characteristics of the people of India.

The first census of India was conducted in the 1870s and attempted to collect data across as much of the country as was feasible. The first of the decennial censuses took place in 1881. Until 1961, responsibility for arranging, conducting and analysing the results of the census was exercised by a temporary administrative structure that was put in place for each census and then dismantled. From that time on, the office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India has existed as a permanent department of central government; each state and union territory has a supervisory Directorate of Census Operations. [2]

British Raj period

Attempts to enumerate population in parts of the Indian subcontinent and, more important, to assess landholdings for revenue purposes, existed before the British Raj and are attested in writings such as those of Abu'l-Fazl ibn Mubarak and Muhnot Nainsi. The British East India Company, too, carried out quantitative exercises in various places and at various times. [3] By 1871-72, when the Raj authorities conducted the first all-India census, the only administrative area of British India that had not already attempted to conduct a region-wide enumeration was Bengal Province. [4] [lower-alpha 1]

The conduct of censuses in India by the British Raj administration significantly influenced the culture of the country. Peter Gottschalk says that:

... classifications of convenience for government officials transformed into contested identities for the Indian public as the census went from an enumerative exercise of the British government to an authoritative representation of the social body and a vital tool of indigenous interests. All of this pivoted on the fact that statistical comparison in British India relied upon a purportedly scientific classificatory system dissimilar to Indic antecedents yet similar to that of medieval Europe: focused on mutually exclusive, essence-defined, religious categories. [6]


Jervoise Athelstane Baines was in charge of the 1891 census. He adjusted the classification system. [7]


The Census Commissioner for 1901 was H. H. Risley. He was appointed in 1899 and was influenced by Baines. The detailed regulations that he formulated for the exercise were also used for the 1911 census, and the work involved in co-ordinating the various provincial administrations was considerable and detailed. [7] [8]


E. A. Gait was in overall charge of the 1911 census. [9]


In 1929, J. H. Hutton was given the office of Commissioner for the 1931 census. Aside from performing his official duties in the compilation of the subsequent report, he used the experience when writing his personal work, Caste in India, that was published in 1946. [10] The first ever caste based census in India was done in 1931. [11] He encouraged administrators of the Indian Civil Service to write about the various communities with which they were familiar and Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf says that "... some of the arguments and cultural parallels contained in Part 1 [of the 1931 census report] advanced novel theories perhaps more appropriate to a learned journal that to the pages of an official census report." [12]


W. W. M. Yeatts was appointed Census Commissioner for the 1941 census, which proved to be the last of the British Raj era. He made almost no changes to the questions that had been asked of respondents previously but was persuaded to introduce a system whereby each person received their own form for completion. Prior to this, the questionnaires had been, according to Ashok Mitra, "... a continuous household form for recording characteristics of successive households in a defined locality, which had proved ideal for cross-checking for internal consistency of demographic attributes of each member of a household as well as for manual coding and tabulation". The new individualised method was intended to assist in analysis using Hollerith machines. The proposal was to conduct a full enumeration of basic data, such as headcount, age and gender, and to conduct a more detailed sampled enumeration of socio-economic and cultural characteristics. It was thought that this approach would save time and money, as well as reduce the extent of problems caused by errors, undercounts and inconsistencies. [13]

The census was not a success. It was hampered by the fact that World War II was ongoing and by India's literacy and education standards. Those standards made it unfeasible to permit self-enumeration by the respondents but the costs and time involved in training enumerators to act on their behalf had not been offset against the perceived benefits of adopting the sampling method. Very little data was produced other than figures for total population and, says Mitra, "The tabulations of the [sampled] results on machines were so botched and delayed that even by 1954, no complete tabulations ... had been made. The final results defied coherent interpretation at the state or national level." [13]



The importance of large quantities of detailed and varied demographic data increased as India moved towards adoption of five-year development plans. Yeatts was appointed as Commissioner for the 1951 Census of India but died in 1948 and was replaced by R. A. Gopalaswami. The new incumbent refused to be swayed, as Yeatts had been, by the arguments of Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis regarding adoption of sampling methods. Mahalanobis had founded the Indian Statistical Institute but was no match for Gopalaswami, who successfully argued that the diversity of the Indian populace — such as its multilinguality and multiethnicity — was so extreme that no sample would have any statistical utility for planning purposes. The use of individual enumeration slips, combined with household schedules, was retained but the slips were simplified as much as possible in order to maximise the accuracy of information derived from a population that had limited capabilities. [13]


In discussions concerning the census of 1961, Mahalanobis tried once more to cause the adoption of a sampling system. Ashok Mitra had been appointed Commissioner for this census and he, too, was able to counter the idea after demonstrating how cross-checks of the data were performed. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

Census Acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population

A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. This term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common censuses include traditional culture, business, supplies, and traffic censuses. The United Nations defines the essential features of population and housing censuses as "individual enumeration, universality within a defined territory, simultaneity and defined periodicity", and recommends that population censuses be taken at least every ten years. United Nations recommendations also cover census topics to be collected, official definitions, classifications and other useful information to co-ordinate international practices.

Demographics of India Aspect of human geography in India

India is the second most populated country in the world with nearly a fifth of the world's population. According to the 2019 revision of the World Population Prospects population stood at 1,352,642,280.

Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis Indian scientist

Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis OBE, FNA, FASc, FRS was an Indian scientist and statistician. He is best remembered for the Mahalanobis distance, a statistical measure, and for being one of the members of the first Planning Commission of free India. He made pioneering studies in anthropometry in India. He founded the Indian Statistical Institute, and contributed to the design of large-scale sample surveys. For his contributions, Mahalanobis has been considered the father of modern statistics in India.

Gondi people Ethnic group of India

The Gondi (Gōndi) or Gond or Koitur are an Indian ethnic group. They speak Gondi language which is a Dravidian language. They are one of the largest tribal group in India. They are spread over the states of Madhya Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra (Vidarbha), Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha. They are listed as a Scheduled Tribe for the purpose of India's system of positive discrimination. They are an Adivasi group of India

The Valmiki is a large cluster of castes, and local groups from the Indian subcontinent. The Valmikis can be classified as a caste or Sampradaya (tradition). In terms of being classified as Sampradaya, the Valmikis trace their tradition to the Hindu sage Valmiki who is traditionally ascribed as the writer of the epic Ramayana.

A Bengali Brahmo or the traditional Bengali elites are Bengal's upper class. They form the bulk of the historical colonial establishment of eastern India. Educated mostly in a select few schools and colleges, they were one of the wealthiest and most anglicised communities of colonial India. Presidency College's control over the development of and continued influence on the Brahmos and vice versa was complete in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Drawn from the ranks of the newly emerging colonial ruling class, considered to be junior partners in the enterprise of the British Empire, the Brahmos were typically employed as Bengal Presidency governors, high court judges, commissioners, collectors, magistrates, railway managers, Presidency College and Calcutta Medical College principals and professors, as well as those who made their major profits in big business. Politically, they were considered to be moderates in nationalist politics, with the aim of joining council politics for the furtherance of the constitutional question within the framework of the Empire. Influenced by the teachings of the Upanishads.

Indian Statistical Institute academic institute of national importance as recognised by a 1959 act of the Indian Parliament

Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) is an academic institute of national importance as recognised by a 1959 act of the Indian parliament. It grew out of the Statistical Laboratory set up by Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis in Presidency College, Kolkata. Established in 1931, this public university of India is one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions focused on statistics, and its early reputation led it to being adopted as a model for the first US institute of Statistics set up at the Research Triangle, North Carolina by Gertrude Mary Cox.

Herbert Hope Risley British ethnographer and colonial administrator

Sir Herbert Hope Risley was a British ethnographer and colonial administrator, a member of the Indian Civil Service who conducted extensive studies on the tribes and castes of the Bengal Presidency. He is notable for the formal application of the caste system to the entire Hindu population of British India in the 1901 census, of which he was in charge. As an exponent of scientific racism, he used the ratio of the width of a nose to its height to divide Indians into Aryan and Dravidian races, as well as seven castes.

Antpur Village in West Bengal, India

Antpur is a village in the Jangipara community development block of the Srirampore subdivision in the Hooghly District in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is around 20 km from Tarakeswar, the famous temple town and railhead for the Sheoraphuli–Tarakeswar section.

Denzil Ibbetson Administrator in British India

Sir Denzil Charles Jelf IbbetsonKCSI was an administrator in British India and an author. He served as Chief-Commissioner of the Central Provinces and Berar from 1898 to 1899 and Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab in 1907.

Doms are a Bengali Hindu caste found in large numbers in Birbhum, Bankura and other districts in the western fringe of the Indian state of West Bengal. Traditionally, Doms were basket-makers, cultivators, labourers and drummers; their wives serving as midwives.

The 1891 Census of India was conducted by the British Raj and covered the lands now part of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma. The Census Commissioner was Jervoise Athelstane Baines, who was later knighted for his work in India. Baines changed the classification from that which had been used in the 1881 census. His obituary in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society describes the changes as being "first the separation of caste from religion and, secondly, the substitution of the population subsisting by an occupation for that exercising it." He wrote the resultant 300-page General Report, which had "a literary flavour and wide scholarship" rather than a mere analysis of the data.

The total population of the Nair community is disputed, since there has been no caste-based census since 1931. The administrators of the British Raj had an abiding interest in ethnography but in post-independence India the policy has been generally to ignore it in censuses.

2011 Census of India 15th Indian Census

The 15th Indian Census was conducted in two phases, house listing and population enumeration. House listing phase began on 1 April 2010 and involved collection of information about all buildings. Information for National Population Register (NPR) was also collected in the first phase, which will be used to issue a 12-digit unique identification number to all registered Indian residents by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). The second population enumeration phase was conducted between 9 and 28 February 2011. Census has been conducted in India since 1872 and 2011 marks the first time biometric information was collected. According to the provisional reports released on 31 March 2011, the Indian population increased to 1.21 billion with a decadal growth of 17.70%. Adult literacy rate increased to 74.04% with a decadal growth of 9.21%. The motto of the census was 'Our Census, Our future'.

Sir Jervoise Athelstane Baines was an administrator in the Indian Civil Service during the period of the British Raj.

Koregaon Bhima Village in Maharashtra, India

Koregaon Bhima is a panchayat village and census town in the state of Maharashtra, India, on the left (north) bank of the Bhima River. Administratively, Koregaon Bhima is under Shirur Taluka of Pune District in Maharashtra. There is only the single town of Koregaon Bhima in the Koregaon Bhima gram panchayat. The town of Koregaon Bhima is 10 km along the SH 60 motorway southwest of the village of Shikrapur, and 28 km by road northeast of the city of Pune. It is the site of the Battle of Koregaon fought on 1 January 1818.

John Henry Hutton was an English-born anthropologist and an administrator in the Indian Civil Service (ICS) during the period of the British Raj. The period that he spent with the ICS in Assam evoked an interest in tribal cultures of that region that was of seminal importance. His research work was recognised subsequently with his appointment to the chair of William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge and with various honours.

William Walter Murray Yeatts was Census Commissioner for the 1941 census of India, which was the last such exercise prior to the country's independence from the British Raj. He was appointed to the same office for the 1951 census, having elected to stay in the country, but died before it took place.

The Census of India prior to independence was conducted periodically from 1865 onward to 1947. The censuses were primarily concerned with administration and faced numerous problems in their design and conduct ranging from absence of house numbering in hamlets to cultural objections on various grounds to dangers posed by wild animals to census personnel. The censuses were designed more for social engineering and to further the British agenda for governance rather than to uncover the underlying structure of the population. The sociologist Michael Mann says that the census exercise was "more telling of the administrative needs of the British than of the social reality for the people of British India." The difference of the nature of Indian society during the British Raj from the value system and the societies of the West were highlighted by the inclusion of "caste", "religion", "profession" and "age" in the data to be collected, as the collection and analysis of this information had a considerable impact on the structure and political overtones of Indian society.

The Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC) was conducted for the 2011 Census of India. The Manmohan Singh government approved the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 to be carried out after discussion in both houses of Parliament in 2010. The SECC 2011 was conducted in all states and union territories of India and the first findings were revealed on 3 July 2015 by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. SECC 2011 is also the first paperless census in India conducted on hand-held electronic devices by the government in 640 districts. The rural development ministry has taken a decision to use the SECC data in all its programmes such as MGNREGA, National Food Security Act, and the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana. SECC 2011 was the first-ever caste-based census since 1931 Census of India, and it was launched on 29 June 2011 from the Sankhola village of Hazemara block in West Tripura district.



  1. William Wilson Hunter had commenced work on what became the Statistical Account of Bengal around 1869 but it was not completed until a few years after the first all-India census; [5] Francis Buchanan-Hamilton had conducted a limited survey of the region in the early 1800s. [4]


  1. "Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India".
  2. Vemuri, Murali Dhar (1997). "Data Collection in Census: A Survey of Census Enumerators". In Rajan, Sebastian Irudaya (ed.). India's Demographic Transition: A Reassessment. M. D. Publications. p. 111. ISBN   9788175330283.
  3. Gottschalk, Peter (2012). Religion, Science, and Empire: Classifying Hinduism and Islam in British India. Oxford University Press. pp. 185–186, 188–189. ISBN   9780195393019.
  4. 1 2 Gottschalk, Peter (2012). Religion, Science, and Empire: Classifying Hinduism and Islam in British India. Oxford University Press. p. 191. ISBN   9780195393019.
  5. Marriott, John (2003). The Other Empire: Metropolis, India and Progress in the Colonial Imagination. Manchester University Press. p. 209. ISBN   978-0-7190-6018-2.
  6. Gottschalk, Peter (2012). Religion, Science, and Empire: Classifying Hinduism and Islam in British India. Oxford University Press. p. 183. ISBN   9780195393019.
  7. 1 2 R.H.R.; S. de J. (January 1926). "Obituary: Sir Athelstane Baines, C.S.I.". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. London: Royal Statistical Society. 89 (1): 182–184. JSTOR   2341501.(subscription required)
  8. Risley, Sir Herbert Hope (1915) [1908]. Crooke, William (ed.). The People of India (Memorial edition). Calcutta: Thacker, Spink. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  9. Bhagat, Ram B. (April–June 2006). "Census and caste enumeration: British legacy and contemporary practice in India". Genus. 62 (2): 119–134. JSTOR   29789312.(subscription required)
  10. Macfarlane, Alan (January 2011). "Hutton, John Henry (1885–1968)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/53568 . Retrieved 8 November 2013.(subscription or UK public library membership required)
  11. "No data since 1931, will 2011 Census be all-caste inclusive?".
  12. von Fürer-Haimendorf, Christoph (1968). "John Henry Hutton, 1885-1968". Proceedings of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (1968): 66–67. JSTOR   3031708.(subscription required)
  13. 1 2 3 4 Mitra, Asok (17–24 December 1994). "Census 1961: New Pathways". Economic and Political Weekly. 29 (51/52): 3207–3221. JSTOR   4402155.(subscription required)

Further reading