Headcount turns into headache in State

Headcount turns into headache in State

Two many !

When Census 2011 was launched with much fanfare on April 15, Director of Census Operations T K Anil Kumar had declared that each enumerator would collect data on houselisting and the National Population Register (NPR) for 120 to 150 homes.

When the census-takers took to the field in the scorching sun, many found they had actually been assigned more than 200 homes to cover. Some reported a near-impossible target of 300 homes to cover in 45 days. The task clearly is not as easy or methodical as projected earlier by the authorities.

The enumerators have to fill in one houselisting form with 34 questions for each family. Besides, they have to fill in the NPR form, which contains 15 questions, for every individual in any home. One census-taker, Janaki (name changed), who works as a schoolteacher in Yeshwanthpur, said: “The time required to collect data from a family varies between half-an-hour to 45 minutes. It could increase if the number of family members exceeds six,” she said, suggesting the complexities of a typical headcount.

Like thousands of other schoolteachers, Janaki has been assigned to cover a block of about 150 buildings where the number of households in each building varies between two and six . She explained that taking into account the time required to collect data for each house, she can barely cover five or six homes a day.

“I have been allotted 300 homes, but of the 45 days, the first two are exhausted to comprehend the limits of the area I am required to cover. It is obvious that it would be a Herculean task to complete the job in the remaining days,” she added. Besides, a lot of time is taken up when people fail to recollect their dates of birth and then have to fish for supporting documents like birth certificates or SSLC marksheets.

Enumerators have other reasons to grumble. Hardpressed for time, census-takers who were allotted more than 150 homes, are not happy because they are not being paid the remuneration they believe they should be rightfully paid for “working overtime”.
Each enumerator gets a consolidated Rs 5,000 for the entire operation, regardless of how many homes they cover for an exercise that will last till June 1. At the same time, they have to return to their respective schools to resume normal duties by May 28 when most schools across the State reopen.

Several enumerators complained that collecting data from the working class causes loss of time. “In the block which I have been assigned, most of the people are garment workers. They leave for their jobs at 7:30 am and return late in the evening. So their availability is uncertain,”  said Manjula (name changed) of Doddabidarakallu. Another enumerator, Kenchappa, said he felt frustrated when he had to visit one particular house six times since the occupants were not available earlier.

Explaining the difficult situation, Kumar said the problem enumerators faced with covering homes more than they were initially assigned was primarily on the outskirts of Bangalore.
“We have GIS supported maps of Bangalore for 134 wards. We created blocks keeping an average of 120 to 150 houses in each block in these 134 wards. Whereas, in the rest 68 wards our local revenue officers prepared the rough sketch of maps. There it was difficult to fix the blocks strictly to 150 houses”, he said.

Kumar admitted that the problem came to light a week after work on the headcount began. “We have been instructed to take the services of additional enumerators whenever the problem surfaces,” Kumar said, promising that the task would be “easier” for enumerators in the second phase in February 2011. He, however, emphasised that there would be no deadline extension under any circumstance.

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