What about people who don’t fit into your boxes?

In reply to my post on The Problem I have with Census 2011, a Swiss friend who has been married to an Indian friend and living in India for years with her husband and daughter, wrote a blog on her experiences with the census and dealing with daily prejudices. Being a Swiss, resident Indian with a PIO, she has faced it all. Do read it to understand why our government needs to wake up to the fact that people are mobile and not like furniture!

Then there’s a Facebook discussion it triggered. Sharing it here to understand the extent to which everyone is irritated by the Census. Is anyone listening?

  • G Yesss! and also so intrusive and leaves no space for anonymity. It’s like the big daddy watching and knowing everything about your life. HATE IT! Just got my friendly visit this morning!!!! In the name of census, this is how they accumulated data in Gujarat and massacred thousands of Muslims and changed the country forever! Left me feeling so exposed and vulnerable!
  • K They came to our place in Bangalore, and guess what? They didn’t even ask me about the other languages I know. Only the “head of the family”. I don’t think I have been asked my caste in ANY other official context. After a lifetime of answering curious foreigners, “hmm…yeah, I am not a practising anything”, it IS shocking to be asked these details by the government of my ‘own’ country.
  • A Wait till they ask you to enrol into UID .. give away your Picture, both you Iris scans and all ten Fingerprints
  • G Oh and you’ve got to check out the “PSA” for the census and the freakin justification! Please give govt all info so govt can plan and provide for every citizen! WTF! Do a little better than that if you must!
  • A And in case this missed the news .. The National Intelligence Grid – “According to informed sources, the data with 21 agencies and departments of government will now be forwarded to the NatGrid for integration. The data will include Pan car…d, voter ID card and ration card details, income tax returns, degrees obtained from schools and colleges, bank account numbers, financial transactions, travel documents, passport details, police stations and jails across the country among others.” DNA STORY
  • G Welcome to the gameshow! Big Brother’s watching your every move!
  • A Sometimes i wonder if its just a bunch of computer science / IT people od-ing on how cool will it be technically to integrate various data
  • G And marketing the idea to the govt babus to make money for their OD-ing trips! Totally!
  • K The thing that is really scary is that it would require just one inefficient, unscrupulous and/or corrupt babu for all the data to be used for all kinds of nefarious purposes

The problem I have with Census 2011

The Census lady just visited my house in Delhi with her long list of questions. With every question, I felt more and more disconnected with our government’s thinking and also angry. In their need to compartmentalize our beautifully diverse population, the government is killing our multiplicity—or wants to. You will be forcefully put in one compartment or the other and sadly have no choice about the matter. Here’s what five minutes of interacting with the census lady told me. Be prepared for a mental onslaught when the Census probe comes knocking by your door!

  1. The census begins by asking you who is the HEAD of the family section—which of course is assumed to be a man. I wonder what happens in the household with only women? All the other people living in the house are made relatives of the said ‘Head’ of the family. How can a government which is talking about Women equality and creating bills and laws to protect its women be so patriarchal in its forms? I always had a problem with the forms which asked Father/Husband only – as if a woman cannot exist alone. Always made by a male babu of course.
  2. The next question is RELIGION with six choices – Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jain and Buddhist. If you don’t have a religion, I am sorry but you cannot exist for our dear government.

    Boxed in by your caste
  3. The major issue which a lot of us coffee-house argumentative so-called-intellectuals have been talking about since months is the fact that we don’t want to give out our CASTE. We always hoped (without any action of course) that the government will be sensible enough to give us a choice of NO CASTE. That’s the third question and no, before you ask me, you don’t have a choice of saying NO CASTE. If you say so, the census lady will simply have to put one you depending on your mother tongue. You have to belong to a CASTE else you simply don’t exist for the votes that the government in power needs.

After these three initial questions, I was too emotional (and too scared) to read more of the census questions. It’s unfortunate when you start to see our government deliberately chopping our diverse society into cubes of castes. Our freedom fighters and social reformers must be turning in their graves. This is their nightmare come true.