Census Mapping in India and Role of GIS: A Look Ahead at Census 2021

AuthorAbhishek Jain,Varinder Kaur
Date01 December 2021
Publication Date01 December 2021
Census Mapping
in India and Role of
GIS: A Look Ahead
at Census 2021
Abhishek Jain1 and Varinder Kaur2
The 2021 Census of India for over 1.3 billion population deploying 3 million
enumerators, has significant evidence value for 71 countries where census is
scheduled during 2021. Census mapping plays a major role in accurate, com-
plete and timely census. It delineates the exact and correct boundaries of all the
administrative units. The Indian census has been using Geographic Information
System (GIS) technologies over the last three censuses. In this study, we focus
on the applications and methodologies being adopted for the census mapping in
Census 2021 in India which is going to be the first digital Census of India. Five
mobile apps have been developed for data collection and for map-related work.
The 2021 Indian census utilises the latest census mapping techniques, namely
standardisation of GIS spatial database design, geo-referencing of administrative
units and latest mobile mapping application (Arc GIS Quick Capture) for field
operations and built-up area digitisation work. We also discuss the various chal-
lenges and their solutions for census mapping in India, most prominently a high
quality, updated, comprehensive and geo-referenced address registry for accu-
rate data collection and mapping, and the use of geo-referenced high-resolution
satellite images at village level for covering the gaps in rural boundary maps.
Census 2021, Census of India, Census Mapping, GIS, Houselisting Block mapping,
digital census
Indian Journal of Public
67(4) 540–558, 2021
© 2021 IIPA
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/00195561211056406
1 IAS, Director Census Operations and Citizen Registration, Punjab and Chandigarh, Ministry of
Home Affairs, Government of India.
2 Research Officer (Map), Directorate of Census Operations, Punjab, Ministry of Home Affairs,
Government of India.
Corresponding author:
Abhishek Jain, Janganana Bhawan, Plot 2B, Sector 19A, Madhya Marg, Chandigarh 160047, India.
E-mail: flyingfinger3@gmail.com
Jain and Kaur 541
Census in India: Backbone of Effective Public
“A population census is the total process of planning, collecting, compiling,
evaluating, disseminating and analysing demographic, economic and social
data at the smallest geographic level pertaining, at a specified time, to all
persons in a country or in a well-delimited part of a country” (United Nations,
2017, p. 2). Census consists of the entire statistical universe, from the country
to the village level.1 Census is a unique source of information for scholars and
researchers of demography, public administration, public policy, economics,
statistics, sociology and many other disciplines. Complete, accurate and
timely census is sine qua non for data-based governance (UNFPA, 2019;
United Nations, 2020). Census is very important in planning at different levels
and is the backbone for national statistics. Hence quality of census is of para-
mount importance (Baffour et al., 2013; Schweinfest, 2020). It is an essential
public good. The latest World Development Report 2021: Data for Better
Lives (World Bank, 2021) highlights the tremendous potential of the changing
data landscape to improve the lives of poor people (Figure 1).
The earliest references of census in India can be traced back to the Mauryan
period in Kautilya’s Arthashastra (321–296 bc) and later during the Mughal period
in the writings of Abul Fazl (1595–96) in the Ain-e-Akbari. In India, in its present
scientific form, the census was conducted for the first time non-synchronously
between 1865 and 1872 in different parts of the country (Office of Registrar
General, India [ORGI], n.d.). However, the first synchronous census in India
Figure 1. How Data Can Support Development: A Theory of Change.
Source: World Bank (2021, p. 4).

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