Sunday, May 2, 2010

One billion … and one

I had read in the papers that India was starting its national census and had thought it must be a bit like painting the Forth Road Bridge – by the time you have finished counting what is around 1 billion people you would have to start the process again - if not before. Do they count the seasonal migrants who are often taken illegally under duress to work in isolated brick factories hundreds of kilometres from where they live? What about the people Antodaya supports many of whom live in remote areas that are only accessible on foot and who, being illiterate, can hardly be sent a form to fill in? The homeless? The beggars who basically live on the trains? These vulnerable groups represent a sizeable proportion of India's total population - does this affect the amount of money allocated to them? The scale and complexities were mind boggling. It was only a passing thought, however, until this evening when Lara, my landlord's daughter, arrived at my door accompanied by a government official – they had started the counting in Bhawanipatna and, as a legal alien, I was to be included. The form was in Oriya and the official didn't speak that much English but with Lara acting as translator we muddled our way through. They wanted the normal stuff – name, occupation, date of birth etc but also my "village".  An important part of an Indian's identity, your village links you back to the place your family hails from even if you, yourself, have never lived there.  Should I put Skirpenbeck - where my parents now live, London - where I've spent the last 20+ years or West Byfleet where I was born?  I plumped for London - it was easier to spell. They also wanted to know my father's, mother's and husband's name – her pen hovered hesitantly over the appropriate box when Lara told her I didn't have a husband – "No, not even a dead one". Dad's name was underlined by way of compensation. Apparently my answers have to be transcribed into Oriya before I sign it. I'm mildly interested in what my name looks like in Oriya although I'll have no idea what I'm actually signing of course but, whatever it says, I'm now officially in the system – my name and details, as well as Mum and Dad's but minus hubby's, will be winging their way into the bowels of  the Indian bureaucratic system. At sometime in the distant future when they announce the final tally - it's expected to be over billion … plus me.

4 comments:

Corey said...

Gina and I had this same experience! I'm also curious what the margin of error is going to be on this census.

Susie Price said...

One billion ... and three and counting.

Sheila said...

No sign of them here yet, but I was in Koraput when they came calling the day H was leaving, but before N moved in - so they missed 1!

On a serious note, it is a daunting prospect and open to so many mistakes, oversights and lost souls. I'd love to knowwhether they reach the hill tribes - somehow I can't see them trekking 16KM off road up the Miyamgiri hills!

rory houston said...

Hello Susie P! I've finally managed to find some quality time to read your amazing blog - only to find your shortly to return home. Whoops. It appears (according to my wife) that our move from sunny and bustling west London to the rural and rainy Northern Ireland - is now permanent. I have many stories to tell but don't think they compare to those on your blog.