Will census give better count of the disabled?

Activists want the 2011 census question on disability to be more nuanced


Sonal Matharu | March 17, 2010

Javed Abidi wants census query to be more nuanced
Javed Abidi wants census query to be more nuanced

The Census 2011 can have more detailed questions on disability, thus identifying more diasbled people, if authorities agree to activists' demand.

The census commissioner has at least agreed to consider recommendations from representatives of the disability sector. This move can lead to more comprehensive data on the number of the disabled in the country.

The National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) organised a roundtable on ‘Disability and Census 2011’ earlier this week to reach a consensus on framing the census question on disability and on training the data collectors.

NCPEDP director Javed Abidi said, “The question on disability in the 2011 census needs to be looked afresh. In the 2001 census only five disabilities were mentioned in the questionnaire, but the census commissioner has agreed to expand that list and we can now recommend up to nine disabilities to them. They will review our recommendations and make the final decision by the end of this month.”

As of now, the census authorities have repeated from 2001 the question (number 14) which excludes the option of multiple disabilities. It also does not differentiate between mental retardation and mental illness.

“The census commissioner has agreed that the question on disability in the questionnaire is archaic. We have also proposed to move the question on disability from number 14 to number six, seven or eight. The higher the question in the list, the greater is the chance of enumerators asking it and the respondents answering it,” said Abidi.

Besides modifying the question on disability, training and sensitising people employed for data collection is also necessary.

In November, 90 trainers will be trained in Mumbai and Delhi. They will further disseminate required information to 725 master trainer facilitators from different parts of the country, mostly from state capitals, who will then train 54,000 master trainers at the district level. The master trainers will transfer the techniques of data collection to 27 lakh enumerators who go from house to house.

“The enumerators are trained for 34 to 35 questions for two days. We cannot devote more than half an hour to 45 minutes explaining them one question. With limited time, it is difficult to explain different categories and the extent of disability. To operate within this system and deliver the best, we want proposals from you,” said Dr. C. Chandramouli, census commissioner of India, addressing the gathering of differently abled people and NGOs.

The final questions will be sealed by the census commission by the end of this month. The questionnaire and training manual will be sent for translation and later for printing and distribution by the end of this year.

There are about 70 million disabled people in the country though only 21 million are identified as such in the government records, activists say. “Once we get the numbers in the census right, that will help in forming future policies and programmes for people with various disabilities” said Abidi. “The finance minister will allocate resources. If we have the numbers correct in the book, we will get more resources,” he added.



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