Sarita Devi (52) (name changed), a teacher in an MCD-run school, leaves for work at 7 am and reaches home at 10 pm after her ‘duties are over for the day’.
No, she wasn’t teaching. Sarita is one of 15,000 MCD schoolteachers who are sweating it out in the scorching heat to conduct the Delhi leg of Census of India, 2011.
These teachers have been directed to gather information from households. The Delhi census kicked off on May 1 and will continue till June 15. The teachers who have to put in the extra hours of work complain of harassment, exhaustion, humiliation and even foregoing their summer vacations.
Sarita has been assigned 75 houses in South Delhi which have five or more families each. “Sometimes, the number of families are more than listed. It takes about an hour to talk to each family. I also go out on Sundays as I have to give the data by June 15.”
Many times, the teachers are turned away. “We are bound by government orders. Most of the times, we are treated like salesmen. If we go in the morning, they don’t answer our queries as they are getting ready to leave for work. Later, most of the male members are out so the women don’t talk to us. People don’t cooperate, some even unleash their dogs on us. It is humiliating,” said Parimal Jha (name changed).
Jha, originally from Bihar, had planned to visit his native place in the summer vacations. Instead, he’s busy counting heads. “And after all this, we will be given just 10 days’ leave and Rs 8,000 at the end of census.”
For the women, the problems seem to be more acute as they have to manage their house, their teaching job and do the census duty. Apart from managing time, they have to face a lot of harrasment while conducting the census. “There are houses which have only male members and some of the questions are very personal. It feels unsafe so I have to ask either my son or my husband to accompany me,” said Kusum Chawla (35) (name changed). The questions on caste and the details about spouses are the ones which draw maximum resentment, she added.
Ram Chandra Dabas, general secretary of Akhil Dilli Prathamik Siksha Sangh, said, “The teachers are unable to take classes so students suffer. The extra hours the teachers put in affects their personal lives as they are left with no time. We have also approached the court to relieve the teachers from non-educational duties.”
There are others like Ramesh Kumar (name changed), who have been assigned both the census duty and the election duty as booth lab officer.
“I don’t know how I will manage so many duties.”
Kumar also has another grouse, “Why are private school teachers not asked to do such duties?”
The MCD has also tried to address the problems of the teachers. “We have asked the government time and again not to put teachers, especially the women, on election or census duty, as they have to do rounds of each household. It is putting their security at risk. We wrote to the chief secretary to exempt the female teachers but our request was not heeded to,” said Delhi Mayor Prithvi Raj Sawhney.