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India's Census 2011 began April 1, will cost almost $2 billion

India's Census 2011 began April 1, will cost almost $2 billion

While the richest nation in the world, the United States, is pretty far along in conducting its 2010 census, the largest democracy on the planet has started its own exercise to count and catalog its 1.2 billion citizens. Over two million census takers will document not only every man, woman and child in this vast country, they will also enumerate the availability of toilets, drinking water and electricity, and the type of building materials to create a comprehensive picture of housing in India. The census-takers also plan to include millions of homeless people who sleep on railway platforms, under bridges and on sidewalks.

For the first time ever, they will also take fingerprints and photographs of each person and collect information on Internet, mobile phone and bank account usage. The collection of fingerprints and photographs will be linked with another massive exercise launched last year to assign every Indian an identity number and led by former CEO of Infosys, Nandan Nilekani who currently serves as a cabinet ranking official. The data collected will be used to issue a national identity card with 16 digits to all Indian residents, starting this November. The exercise will take over 11 months, consume 11.63 million tons of paper and cost $1.9 billion). The completed census will be released by mid-2011.

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