Daijiworld Media Network - Mangaluru
Mangaluru, Apr 28: The much publicized caste census is approaching its final day. First we heard anti-census sentiments which died down once the process started, and after that we have been hearing about the modalities of the census in which the persons involved, in other words the enumerators, have been criticized heavily for their style of working.
Amidst all the criticism, Daijiworld decided to look at the problems faced by the teachers who have been engaged in the recent census. We interviewed a few teachers who are engaged in the task of collecting information from the public. In the interest of enumerators, real names have been mentioned here.
Despite allegations that some of the enumerators do not ask all the 55 questions in the form, one of the enumerators we interviewed asserted that they do ask all the questions to every family.
When asked if they fill the forms with pencils as alleged, Meena (name changed) replied, "To make it a fair copy at the spot itself I use pen and not pencil. Whatever people say I write. Also we have a book of records of families to cross check."
The cooperation from the public has not been so great, which has further hampered their task. "People are fed up. Most of them were rude, but some were hospitable and offered us some drink. They asked us questions in return fearing that they might lose the benefits offered by the government. If we don’t answer them we don't get answers from them. First of all there are too many questions to be asked in the form and over that answering their queries consumes lot of time," Meena said.
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Asked if there was any short cut method to finish the work faster, she said, "No way! The place where I am sent to is Bondantila village. It takes almost 40 to 45 minutes to cover the distance and collect data from only one house. In a day I could cover only 7- 8 houses. Sometimes the members of the house will not be there even after we visit 2-3 times. This annoys me. Questions about wet land, dry land belonging to the revenue department are also given to us. Details like caste etc can be got from the Aadhar card information. This is a repetition, waste of time and waste of money.
"I feel that this (census) won’t be successful. Even if 20 more days are given, this work will not be over. Moreover, not all people tell the truth. They do not give us proper information. Some people have 2-3 ration cards in a house. In some cases, the ration card is of one place and they stay in another place. So the information will be recorded twice. Some do not even give their correct age so it doesn’t tally. People who own shops, land and other assets hide such information and say they own only a house. Rich people have BPL cards (some who own BPL cards allegedly buy rice under Anna Bhagya scheme and sell). In Swasahaya Sangha, Dharmasthala Gramina Abhivrudhi Sangha and Sthree Shakti, only Hindus and Muslims are involved. Christians are not taking initiative to involve themselves in such societies," Meena said.
Asked how she was coping with the scorching summer heat, and the fact that they had to give up their vacation for this work, the enumerator said, "Each teacher is given 160 houses which is too much. Fifty houses would have been better.
"It is affecting our health. I have a sciatic problem and I was supposed to be operated on April 11. I postponed it because of this census. Since all are on vacation there is no one to help. Teachers are suffering because of lack of sleep, insufficient meals, no time for family responsibilities, functions and so on. We are exhausted and waiting for it to finish. Our vacations are occupied with census. We do not have so-called 'human rights'. As it is an interior village there are no proper roads, and there is lack of cleanliness in some houses. Sincere teachers like me take lot of trouble to include new houses, while others leave them out. We have lost our patience. Teachers who are sick and old are assigned with such a hectic and difficult job while the younger ones find a way to escape," Meena said.
Talking to another enumerator on phone, he said, "We try to ask all the questions but we have to complete 150-200 houses within 20 days, which is a huge task. The sun is scorching and we feel tired and dizzy walking to every house.
"The response of the people is very bad; when we ask questions regarding religion, caste, sub caste, income etc, they do not respond to us properly, and even speak rudely. As most of the people are unhappy with the caste census itself, we skip a few questions like whether you have toilet, source of light, do you have drinking water, source of cooking etc, as answers to these questions are common and same in every house we visit," he added.
On having to give up vacation time for census, he said, "We are government servants, it is our job to do it. If we do not work we have to face action so we have no choice, and we have to do this in spite of the scorching heat."
He further said, "We can finish 5-6 houses a day and we collect all the signatures from houses. We are doing this job amidst so many difficulties."
Another enumerator, when contacted on phone, said that the response from the people was good and they cooperated, which made the task easier. "It is sunny and it is hard to work. Most of the houses we visit are locked. I have received good response from the people wherever I went. I have asked all the questions, and it took me 45-50 minutes to complete each house. It is a government job and we do it sincerely. We were finding it hard to ask questions regarding land, shop, house etc and we did not get proper information. I must thank the people where I was assigned as they welcomed us, gave us juice and even offered food, which motivated us to work more," she said.