The publication of decennial census reports was initiated by the British Government during the middle of the nineteenth century and has been continued after independence. Questions of reliability and bias in the compilation of information as well as motivations which informed the publication of these reports have been raised and are relevant to every user of census reports. Even so, the censuses were often conducted with painstaking efforts and have preserved for us extremely wide-ranging information on the social, economic and political aspects of Indian life.
They contain information on the distribution and age structure of the population; castes and communities, patterns of occupation, patterns of land-holding and tenancy, health, migration, language, and education, etc., to name just a few aspects of the panorama of Indian society. For researchers interested ' understanding Indian life, the reports of the decennial censes compiled by British officers remain, despite the problems of bias, misunderstanding or conscious distortion, an invaluable source of information.
The census reports consisted of two parts: a general social and economic profile and statistical material. The general profile contains an account of the census operations, the geographical and physical features of the area, the ethnography of caste and communities and changes in age-structure, health, education, employment, landholding pattern and tenancy, etc. The statistical part contains data on geography, rainfall, temperature, distribution of population according to different demographic criteria, caste and communities, health, education, employment and migration and landholding and tenancy.
Census reports have, as a rule, been used by demographers, economists and economic historians, and a great deal o this use has been limited to the statistic data contained in them. Sociologists, social historians and political scientists have made very little use of these report These reports provide, particularly in the volumes entitled 'General Reports' which were published separately for each stat( as well as for India as a whole, ethnographic information on castes and tribes, describing their internal organization, social changes taking place, in them, and the emerging problems of interaction among the different castes a communities. Social movements and trends towards social mobility among th, castes and communities are also often discussed. Even from the viewpoint of the sociologists and social historians, therefore, the census reports are invaluable sources of information and provide useful material on how the different sections of Indian society were responding to the processes set in motion( by British rule.
The census reports are today a body rare documents available in only a few select libraries and even these libraries not always have all the available volumes, which in an average census year extended to more than a hundred for the whole of India. This reprint of Part I Report of Census of India 1931 for Central Provinces and Berar is publish( in the hope that it will be welcomed by individual researchers as well as libraries.
It has been stated that the Superintendent of Census Operations is the most fortunate of Government servants. For a period of two years or more he is generally secure from the cares of district administration and from the attentions of frequent mulakatis.* When his work is ended few can question the accuracy of his statements or the figures upon which he bases them, for it is unlikely that, in a busy age, any one will go so far as to attempt to check even the totals of the Tables for which he is responsible. He has the somewhat invidious reputation of being an authority on most matters con-nected with provincial statistics and upon many questions concerning ethnology and anthropology. If he is careful he may be able to preserve this reputation, at least among those who have not studied the subject more deeply than himself, and after working in his appointment for a few months he is almost bound to become an enthusiastic amateur statistician and anthropologist. If he has high mathematical qualifications such as those possessed by Mr. Roughton, the Superintendent of 1921, his position is almost unassailable.
The task of taking the census is, however, not quite the joyous affair that it was twenty or thirty years ago, when apart from the dry field of figures there was a vast virgin field of research upon which to work. Past Superin-tendents, and perhaps chief among them the late Mr. Russell, laboured in that field so well that it is difficult to add much to their publications and considerable temerity is needed to challenge anything that they have written.
It has, in fact, now become the business of a census report simply to present the latest information regarding the population, its character, its mode of living and its means of livelihood to a very limited public-and to draw from the figures collected any obvious deductions which may prove change, whether in the way of development or deterioration, during the last decade.
The progress which takes place in the east in the space of ten years is not expected to be very clearly marked. But in the Central Provinces, as in the whole of the vast sub-continent of India, change (and in some com-munities decay) has probably occurred more rapidly between 1921 and 1931 than in any previous inter-censal period. By change is meant not such upheavals as are brought about by conquests and revolutions but development in matters affecting the daily life of the people and alterations in their customs and ideas such as ultimately create the history of a nation.
The figures set out in this volume have been tabulated from the returns made at the Census held on the 26th February 1931.
The statistics have been examined in Part I of the Report and anything which appears unusual in them has been discussed there.
Owing to the masses of material involved, printing errors have occurred in some of the tables. Officials and others are therefore advised to refer to the errata, and to correct in manuscript any mistakes shown therein to have been made in the following pages, before using the figures for any purpose.
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