3 years

counting

Confessions of a Census Enumerator

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“Now, even people who live in slums are aware of the Census. They are taking it seriously and ask us when they will get their identity cards.”

How can Census figures be right? It is done by people like us who are forced to do it because the Government threatens action against us if it is not done. There is no motivating force or reason for us to walk around and conduct the Census. 

The enumerators belong to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. Each of us has to visit households and get the requisite forms filled out. These forms are given to the heads of each BMC department and the enumerators have to collect it from them. We can collect as many forms as we like. 

The BMC just announced incentives for the first 100 enumerators who evaluate the most number of households, so speed is essential. The forms have questions pertaining to subjects like education, size of family, caste, age, name, income, etcetera.

We are given areas of operation; that is, municipal wards. Within each ward, we are allocated localities. We have to cover the area given to us within 45 days. In this period, we have to meet all residents in the area and include them in the Census. 

I collected Census data in 2001 as well. There is a lot of change among people today. Now, even people who live in slums are aware of the Census. They are taking it seriously and ask us when they will get their identity cards. A large percentage of the middle class is also very keen that the information about them is correct in the Census. 

But people who live in high-rises and posh housing societies scream at the security guards if we call on them without speaking to them through the intercom. So I sit with the security guards and take the information from them. I agree we could be missing out on vital info, but if these people are not bothered, why should we bother. 

Census work is a learning experience. A colleague of mine reached a house during a bitter domestic quarrel between a man, his wife and his parents. Instead of obtaining the data, my colleague was being told the reason for their domestic quarrel.

Unlike me, there are other enumerators who are extremely interested in the job. They go out of their way to ensure every bit of information finds place in the Census.

(This enumerator works with the BMC and this is his second Census duty.)

As told to Haima Deshpande.