Come February 28 night, census enumerators will fan out across the city to count its homeless who sleep on pavements or take refuge under its many flyovers, at railway and bus stations and in shelters.
“Unlike the three weeks dedicated to others, the homeless are to be counted all over Delhi simultaneously on February 28,” said Varsha Joshi, director of census operations in Delhi, said.
She said a similar headcount will be undertaken all over the country at the time to ensure that no one is left out in the crucial phase of Census 2011.
For the purpose of census, homeless or “houseless” have been identified as those people “who have absolutely no shelter of their own to sleep in”.
The 2001 census had put the figure at 24,966 in the capital.
Surveys were already conducted in August, September and October last year to identify the locations where the homeless take shelter.
“We work out a rough estimate on how many people we are likely to find in a particular place. If it is more than what a single enumerator can handle then we appoint more people,” Joshi said. “Each and every inch of Delhi is technically going to be checked for this purpose. This is our method to minimise the chance of missing out.”
The spots this time are expected to include major flyovers, railway stations, bus stations, temporary and permanent night shelters as well as some localities in Old Delhi among others.
The locations tend to change as the topography of the city changes, Joshi said, adding the homeless will be asked the same 29 questions as others.
NGOs active in the field have also been roped in, with many of them providing inputs to census officials for the preparatory stages as well as spreading out a word on the date when the counting will be conducted.
“We expect that NGOs will have better knowledge on exactly how to approach the homeless and get the information from them,” Joshi said.
Traditionally being a key part of this exercise, NGO workers will accompany enumerators on the rounds, she said.
“If there is some fear in the mind of the homeless person then the NGO workers can remove that apprehension and see that the information is collected properly,” she added.