Catching Hyderabadis unawares, Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao's much-hyped `Intensive Household Survey' not just began a day in advance on Monday , but also saw young college girls double us as `sub enumerators' even as their `bosses' (government officials) stayed put in cool confines or busied themselves in animated conversations with anybody who was up for a chat ! The sight of 20-somethings at their doorstep, predictably , left several residents startled with some questioning just how safe the exercise was for these women, all aged between 18 and 21. “My entire area was covered by under-graduate girls from St Francis College who came for the `pre-visit 2' on Monday . Though they went about their job very sincerely,I could figure that some people in the area were asking unnecessary questions to unnerve them. In fact, some boys, under the pretext of clarifying doubts, were trying hard to strike conversations with these enumerators,“ said Sai Kumar, a resident of Punjagutta adding, “The government should have thought about these safety concerns before roping in such young girls for this survey that requires them to step inside the homes of strangers.“
Though Sister Alphonsa Vattoly , principal, St Francis College, dismissed such fears and maintained that her 280 student volunteers would be safe as the government had agreed “to appoint police personnel to escort the students on their rounds“, there were no security men seen accompanying the girls on Monday . Sister Vattoly said that her students were deployed on the field as per “orders from the commissioner of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation“, but quickly added: “None of them was forced to participate in the exercise. They signed up voluntarily. The government has assured a certificate for this work.“ Like these girls, there were hundreds of other college students who visited homes across the city, with some going ahead and completing the survey a day in advance catching residents by surprise.
While these enumerators said that they had permission for the same, it undoubtedly left several Hyderabadis confused as they were only expecting a `second pre-visit' on Monday as per the schedule before the final survey on August 19.
“When I was told to take the survey instead, I was shocked,“ said Anitha K, a resident of Domalguda, adding, “The young college student who visited my house said that he had several houses to cover and, therefore, was completing some of them one day ahead. Though I was taken aback I had no choice but to rummage through my files to show him the relevant documents. The authorities should have provided more clarity.“
And there are other concerns too. In the slum pockets of the city, the survey is facing road blocks owing to lack of “house numbers“.Incidentally, a large number of beneficiaries of government schemes live in slums.
Confusion was palpable also among residents who had no enumerator visit their premises either on Sunday or Monday.
Wondering if they had not been counted in the list of residents of Telangana, these natives made frantic calls to the GHMC helpline seeking assistance. Not surprisingly, the GHMC call centre had received 5,500 phone calls regarding the sur vey till 2 pm on Monday. Calls, officials said, came from Banjara Hills, pockets of Malkajgiri, Balanagar, Mohan Nagar in Kothapet, among several others.
“I waited till afternoon and then called the helpline. I was told that an enumerator would definitely visit my house on Tuesday. I have no choice but to wait,“ said Md Asif, a resident of Banjara Hills.
Meanwhile, in some cases, enumerators were forced to return as residents weren't available. According to GHMC records, a staggering 21,636 houses were found locked. “We will intimate the government about these houses and they will initiate necessary action,“ said GHMC commissioner Somesh Kumar.
Interestingly, in the course of the pre-visits, GHMC identified 2.06 lakh houses that had no knowledge about the survey unfolding in the state! Meanwhile, the Secunderabad Cantonment Board (SCB), after initially refusing to join the survey, finally relented and made elaborate arrangements to conduct the survey in its jurisdiction.
Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao kicked off the controversial household survey by filling up the form personally while his Andhra Pradesh counterpart Chandrababu Naidu sublet the job to his private secretary. But cine hero Pawan Kalyan, who extensively campaigned during the polls at the prompting of Narendra Modi, showed the door to the enumerators. KCR’s old associate Vijaya Shanthi also refused to let in the enumerators. Surveyors found the house of the chief justice of Hyderabad high court Justice K J Sengupta ‘locked’.
At the end of the day, not more than 60% of Hyderabad’s population had been surveyed and the municipal corporation chief declared that it would be continued on another day. Though the city remained indoors fearing nonenumeration would lead to problems, the survey itself turned out to be simple.
KCR exuded confidence that the results of the survey will be ready by the first week of September. Analysts felt that he will use the disaggregated data to organizationally benefit his TRS party. The party had won the last elections on pro-Telangana sentiments. Now it needs to build up a party base and the data could prove invaluable.
The enumerators had to face rough weather in many city slums as more than one family was found to be living in a house.
The survey is ostensibly to weed out the fictitious beneficiaries of schemes, but the enumerators did not ask for ration cards anywhere.