Counting those who have no address in Gurugram
On the last day of the pre-test of the 2021 Census, a group of government school teachers, appointed as the enumerators, gathered outside MCG office by 9.30pm on Sunday. For the group of 10 people, the task was to collect details of the homeless population in Gurugram.
In Haryana, the pre-test (sample survey) of the Census 2021 had to be conducted in Ambala, Sirsa and Gurugram districts. It started from August 12 in specific areas of the city with 37 enumerators and seven supervisors assigned to collect the demographic data on a mobile application created by the Central government. In the city, the data collection of the homeless population of Ward 5 was scheduled on the last day of the pre-census.
“It is for the first time data will be collected through mobiles. It is a completely paperless activity. This will save a lot of time, energy and resources. The purpose of the pre-test is to test the functioning of the application and to cover homeless under the population count,” said Devinder Kumar, in charge of the pre-test for the census in the district.
The team selected the roadways bus stand to collect details of homeless families who have been living on the footpaths for more than 20 years. As per the Census 2011, there are 2,369 homeless families in the district.
Lying down under the street light, Ram Prasad and his family, from Madhya Pradesh, were the first to be surveyed. For Prasad and his family, the footpath has been their home for 24 years. He doesn’t have a hutment, only three blankets on which his entire family sleeps.
Jyoti Gulati, one of the enumerators, opened the app on her phone and began filing details including age, state and district they belong to; name and age of each child; education, caste and the kind of work the family does to earn a livelihood. “We leave from here whenever officials ask us to, but we come back later. This is our only home. We have nowhere to go,” said Prasad.
When the enumerator asked what he does for a living, Prasad said, “I was bitten by a snake once. Since then I haven’t taken up work in rural areas. I try to find odd jobs in nearby areas, but there isn’t enough money to survive.”
As enumerators spoke with families living at the bus stand, they found that most homeless families living here were from the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, who had to leave because of drought and poverty.
Krishna, another homeless person from Madhya Pradesh, has been in Gurugram for five years. “There is nothing left in our village due to drought and poverty. In Gurugram also, the contractor doesn’t give us the promised amount for the work we do.” He questioned the enumerator, “Will I be getting a job for all the questions being asked by you?” Silence reigned in.
Enumerators’ questions about fertility revealed another sorry reality. It was found that many homeless women delivered their babies in the park nearby. Kalka, a daily wage labourer from Madhya Pradesh, lost his wife when she was delivering their fifth baby under the open sky in Gurugram. None of his kids are enrolled in school. “I take them along with me to places wherever I work,” he said.
Each enumerator took 15 minutes to collect details of one family. Ironically, none of the families had any ID proof or were covered under any social security scheme of the state or the Centre. But some of them had an education. The survey that lasted till midnight covered 15 families, each of an average five to six members. Once the survey was conducted, those surveyed were hesitant to sign on the mobile screen, but not PK Ahirwar, a construction worker from Raipur in Chhattisgarh. Ahirwar, gave his details without even looking at the enumerators. He was lying down with a bandage on his left eye. He got up and spelled his name in English.
“I am 12th pass and know Sanskrit too. I liked Sanskrit,” said Ahirwar, who works as a construction worker and has been living on the footpath for five years now.