III – THE SYSTEM AND THE FUTURE
India is apt to take its census for granted, following in this the well-known tendency of mankind to ignore what is near at hand or familiar and concert rate upon the novel or the remote. The peculiar system under which it is administered accentuates this; for the absence of any between census continuity must encourage the tendency towards “ out of sight, out of mind”. Beyond and outside India the attitude is very different and in some parts the combination of the undertaking and its astonishing cheapness induces the description of it as a kind of administrative miracle.
There generally comes some stage however after which taking things for granted is apt to lead to difficulties. This stage has arisen in the case of the Indian census and certain elements in the present position render it advisable that the citizens as well as the government should devote early and concentrated reflection to what is involved and to the direction they wish this great undertaking to follow.
In other countries, certainly in those with a census history comparable in extent with India’s, the census is a central function carried out like other government activities through paid staffs. In India, which incidentally is from this point of view rather a continent than a country, the enumeration, the basic part, is carried out by a multitude of citizens in addition to their other duties and for the greatest part unpaid. Thus accidentally for there is no trace of design India has reached the very advanced position of haven’t this enormous operation carried out by the people as a civic duty. And that is the first element that is taken for granted ; but it has reached the stage when it must be given some greater reflection if a most powerful as well as a most advanced position is to be maintained.