The Census of India may have changed in the past 10 years, but if NGOs are to be believed, it is still as insensitive to the needs of the homeless as always.
Alleging that the enumeration of the homeless in the Capital was unsatisfactory and full of irregularities, the NGOs working with the homeless demanded another exercise, especially for the homeless within this year to make sure everyone is being counted.
NGOs allege that the census, which was earlier scheduled to be conducted on February 28, but was later held on February 27, 28 and March 1, was an ad hoc process.
"The main problem was the attitude of the enumerators. Some female teachers came with their husbands, who were very insensitive and picked up fights with the homeless on petty issues. Some of them were drunk," said Indu Prakash Singh, technical advisor, Indo Global Social Service Society, an NGO working with the homeless.
The Census of India and various NGOs in the Capital had decided to work together to ensure that all homeless in the city are counted. Various NGOs had provided volunteers to the enumerators.
Representatives of the NGOs involved in the process said the teachers conducting the survey saw it as a punishment and a job that had to be completed as quickly as possible by devising innovative shortcuts. Some of them included putting multiple unrelated homeless families living on the same footpath in the same form (treating them as one family) and, in some cases, cooking up imaginary information on non-existent people on their own. "In some areas, people were left out," Singh said.
However, Varsha Joshi, director of Census Operations, Delhi, said the exercise was successful and satisfactory. "We were in touch with the NGOs and if some areas were left out they could have informed us. On the whole, it has been a very successful exercise, much better than the last time," she said.