Kirsten my "waiter" son.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

CENSUS CIRCUS

Whenever the government plans something, one can be certain it will have a beginning, a muddle and no end. So with a heavy heart, I write this piece on the latest fiasco that the men in charge of my country have managed to pull off.
A lady rang my doorbell at six in the evening and announced that she had come to take the census. I was puzzled as I knew that teachers of the schools in the vicinity were assigned this enormous task but surely, this was beyond school hours. So I enquired with her as to why she had come at this late hour. It was shocking to hear that they were expected to perform this ‘extracurricular’ duty after a tiring day at school correcting papers. Being a teacher myself, though now retired in order to pursue a career in homemaking, it made my blood boil to hear this. Were the people I had elected that hard-hearted, I wondered? These were mothers of children, wives and daughter-in-laws, for heaven’s sake! Why this undue ‘service’ to the nation?
She requested me to help her fill the form swiftly by jotting down the details myself which I happily did. As she sat telling me what to write, I couldn’t help thinking that she was lucky to have got an educated person to help her out. What if she had to go to a home where they cannot spell, leave alone write, in English or any other language? What a harrowing time she would have had in such a place!
I am told that the salary for this demanding job done for the country is nominal and often the teacher has to go repeatedly to a home where the people are unavailable due to several reasons ranging from jobs to holidays, and the transport has to be borne by them. Then there is the question of a woman visiting homes late in the evenings where she could be in danger of molestation by a male member of the household. One trainer nonchalantly dismissed this fear when it was articulated at the teacher training sessions by saying that she could always get her husband to escort her. Now who will pay the hapless husband who is also supposed to be laying down his life for his country in this way, pray tell me?
One lady teacher was sent to a distant locality to conduct the census there as the areas close to her home were already allocated to others. She was forced to take her three-year-old son along with her because she had no one to keep him with. Besides, the obvious high bills she incurred to travel back and forth and the tedium involved in the travel, this harried lady was asked impolitely to leave her little boy outside the homes that she was conducting the census in. Which window did the patriotic sense of those households fly out from?
The details to be filled in the census form are numerous, one among which is the column for BC/ST. At one home, a teacher was threatened with dire consequences for daring to ask the family if they belonged to this group. This is the same group that most people, whether they belong to it or not, readily attach themselves to when they can avail of lucrative benefits under government quota.
These and many more grisly tales yet untold speak volumes of the attitude of the government and the general public towards the people they sing praises of on September 5th. That one day, with saccharine hypocrisy, they are felicitated and bedecked with costly gifts and mushy cards. Then for the rest of the year, they are massacred by the Government systematically and with no remorse.
Even the public look at them with jaundiced eyes as if they are out to loot them. Some, I am told, are not even invited into homes and have to jot the data standing at the door like beggars. I don’t understand why a little compassion for their lot cannot be mustered up and a cool glass of water and maybe even a tiny treat is not forthcoming. After all, they are taking your inventory. Put yourself in their place and maybe, yes, maybe, if you have a heart, you will feel the trauma they go through whenever called beyond the line of duty. As my dear neighbor (who is a teacher) said to me yesterday “I prayed hard not to get census duty and thank God that He granted my wish!” I am sure that all the teachers without exception have dreaded the day that they were called for census work and are looking forward to the day it will end, and to hell with the measly pay packet that will hopefully come after a lot of bureaucratic tape.

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