First Census of Free India - [February 9, 1951] This Day in History

9 February 1951

First census of free India

What happened?

The first census of India after independence started on 9 February 1951 and enumeration continued till 28 February 1951. The country’s population was counted as 36,10,88,090.


  • India has a long history of census. Even the literature from the Rig Veda reveals that population count was taken during those periods. Chanakya’s Arthashastra also indicates the importance of taking census as a measure for taxation. In the middle ages, Mughal Emperor Akbar also had some sort of population count.
  • In the modern era, census began with the British authorities holding census for the town of Allahabad in 1824. After that in 1827-28, Benares also had a census.
  • The first complete census of an Indian city was done for Dacca (now in Bangladesh) by Henry Walter in 1830.
  • Similarly different regions had its census taken in various years. In 1865, the government of India decided that a general census of the country would be taken in 1871.
  • In 1866-67, actual counting of heads was taken in most parts of the country and this came to be known as the Census of 1872. Not all territories were covered under this though. In this first nation-wide census, 17 questions were asked pertaining to name, age, religion, caste/class, nationality or race, ability to read/write, and whether attended school or college. Males were asked a separate question on occupation also.
  • After that every ten years, regular census has been conducted by the government.
  • 1941 saw the last census before independence. After India attained independence, the Bhore Committee recommended the government to appoint a Registrar General of Vital and Population Statistics at the central and the provincial levels.
  • As per the Committee’s recommendations, the Census Act came into effect in 1948. The 1951 census was conducted in accordance with this act.
  • The 1951 census’s enumeration period was from 9th to 28th February. Questions were asked pertaining to an individual’s name, age, religion, sex, relationship, economic status, principal and subsidiary means of livelihood, mother tongue and literacy.
  • The National Register of Citizens of India (NRC) was prepared after this census.
  • The whole state of Jammu & Kashmir was omitted during this census and the data for this state was taken based on past figures.
  • This census revealed the population of the country to be 36,10,88,090. The male to female ratio was 1: 0.946.
  • Only 18% of the population was literate and the average life expectancy was a mere 32 years.
  • As per this census, 72,26,000 people migrated to Pakistan and 72,49,000 people migrated to India during the partition.
  • The last census was taken in 2011.
Also on this day

1929: Birth of Abdul Rahman Antulay, former Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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