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From Plains To Patalkot, Census Reaches Out To Interiors

© UNICEF India/2011/Anil Gulati
Census enumerator collecting data doing survey at Tamia village in central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh

By Anil Gulati

CHHINDWARA, 23 Febrauary -
Ranjana Soni, a teacher and a resident of Tamia, knows that census is about collecting information and data which will help in making development programmes for people.She knows her enumerator and says “Sahu sahib aaye te and forms mein janakari le kar gaye teh.” (”Mr. Sahu had come and collected the information on the forms”).

This is the second time he came to the house. He was here a few months back, she adds.

However, Halki, a Bharia tribal woman from Doripatha village in Patlakot region, does not know what is census or “janganga” as it is called in Hindi. But she also knows she was counted when the enumerator came to her house.

Both Soni and Hali are two ends of a spectrum that census officials in Madhya Pradesh meet in their line of duty. The call for national duty has taken them to the deep interiors of India’s second biggest state in one of the world’s biggest headcounts involving a population of over 1.2 billion people.

Tamia and Patalkot are in the Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh. The Tamia sub-division is known for its steep hills and slopes while Patlakot region, part of it in Tamia, has a group of 12 villages and 13 hamlets located in the deep depression of a valley where villages are separated by ridges.

It still is not connected by roads. Patalkot is spread about 79 kilometres and predominantly inhabited by Gonds and Bharia tribes. To reach out to the Patalkot villages one has to go down the valley either along a narrow trail used by locals - a shortcut - or by the steps.Though steps have been constructed, they are steep. Walking down and climbing up them could be more strenuous than taking the shortcut.

Along with Raj Kumar Bharti, a census supervisor, IANS visited Rated, one of the 12 villages there. It has 62 households. Bharti talked to Ram Bai and Bal Chand and their four children. He filled in the form that has 29 indicators, informed them about the use and importance of the census.

Bharti is a school teacher in the same village. It was a holiday and so he could start early for work as a census enumerator. He said he normally counted 10-12 houses a day, and does this after school hours.

Bharti and his four colleagues have to cover the entire Tamia-Patalkot region of 79 kilometres, spread across the terrain, which makes if difficult to reach out to more houses in day like his counterparts do in the plains. The teacher was given three days of training on how to conduct the enumeration, get the form filled and answers to many questions that people could ask.

A booklet published by the Registrar General of India, which explains about possible scenarios they may encounter during the census survey also comes very handy.

“Census is done only once in ten years and does not get you immediately connected to all the details. People do question us why are we collecting the information. We tell them it is about counting Indians and will help the government to plan and implement schemes, which will ultimately benefit all. We are from this area and have been with them for years. It easy to convince them,” Bharti told IANS.

Sachin Sinha, director of census operations in Madhya Pradesh, later said in Bhopal: “The second round of the census, which is currently under way, is the population enumeration phase. It began Feb 9 and will conclude Feb 28. We in Madhya Pradesh are trying to reach out to each and every household, whether in a village or hamlet, even if it is difficult to reach.”

He added: “About 1.5 million workers are on the job and we are covering all the 5,4903 villages in 342 sub divisions, 359 urban local bodies, 14 municipal corporations, 28 special charges of armed forces that include 5 cantonment boards, 50 districts, and 112 towns.”

The Unicef is also supporting the census operation in Madhya Pradesh.

Tania Goldner, chief of Unicef field office for Madhya Pradesh, said: “We see this as very important. It not only provides credible data but also will guide our planning, policy making and setting social development priorities.

“It tells us who are most vulnerable and who should be reached out to - something we need to focus upon and is part of the government’s goals of inclusive growth. The census helps to better orient and support efforts in the area of human rights and child rights,” Golner added.

The first phase of India’s 15th census, which involved listing of houses and buildings, was conducted between April and September, 2010.

As a pointer for the country’s demography, economic activity, literacy, education, housing, urbanisation, fertility and mortality etc, the massive campaign is a vital exercise.

This made it all the more significant for Bharti to forget the difficulties in reaching out to Patalkot’s deep valleys to make its villagers part of the country’s ambitious goals.

 

 

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