India, the world’s second most populated country after China, is delaying the first phase of the national census as well as the National Population Register (NPR) due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed via an official Twitter account for Census of India 2021.

Both the first phase of census and the NPR were initially meant to be carried out from April 1 to September 30.

On Tuesday night, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi ordered a 21-day nationwide lockdown starting at midnight Wednesday. The Ministry of Home Affairs cited that lockdown and said both the first phase of census and NPR will be delayed until further notice

India conducts the census once every decade. The first census was in 1872, when India was under British rule.

The exercise is essentially a population headcount which serves as a primary source for a variety of statistics on the country’s demography, literacy, migration, mortality, economy and culture.

The NPR has been a contentious. Back in 2018 its publication in India’s northeast border state of Assam left the names of almost 4 million people off the controversial registry list, effectively casting a shadow over their citizenship.

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