Officials will collect fingerprints and a photograph every resident for the first time. Along with census details, "personal attributes" will be recorded, such as declared nationality and marital status, and details on the proportion of bank account holders and cellphone users. Enumerators will also collect information on homes, such as the construction material used or the availability of electricity and water.
The census starts Thursday by gathering information on homes. The physical count of residents will be made between February 9-28 next year and the completed census will be released by mid-2011.
2.5 million enumerators (census takers) will cover a vast geographical area, widespread illiteracy, and people with a bewildering diversity of cultures, languages and customs. In order to make sure no one is left uncounted, officials will be armed with satellite maps of India's 608,786 villages.
Data collected for the National Population Register will in turn facilitate the issue of the 16-digit Unique Identity Numbers to all Indian residents. This will serve as a one-stop proof for all Indians to establish their identity, eliminating the current need to produce multiple personal documents.