Telangana: Fears of exclusion, ethnic profiling as KCR govt's survey kicks off

Hyderabad: The Telangana government's insistence on a comprehensive household socio-economic survey has triggered apprehension of exclusion among residents of twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad and other Telangana districts too. Chastened by the strong political and public reaction to the nativity question it raised, the government is less open about the subject now, but it appears to be pushing through its agenda a secretive manner.

No amount of assurance by Telangana ministers – latest is from IT Minister KT Rama Rao – that the comprehensive survey is not intended at frightening people and discriminating against anybody on the basis of their nativity has been able to allay the fears of the residents. The government has declared a public holiday on 19 August and urged everyone to stay at home to cooperate with the surveyors. Over 84 lakh families in the state would be enumerated by more than four lakh employees drawn from various departments and each staffer will be allotted around 20-25 households, including thatched houses, makeshift sheds and temporary accommodations without registration, apart from other permanent houses.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. PTI

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. PTI

The real intention of the government comes clear in the last columns of 21, 22 and 23 in a special box under the header 'Division I' which clearly seeks to elicit information on the nativity of the survey targets. The special box has a headline specifically mentioning "the details of those who migrated from other states". The questions asked are: 21. From which State have you come? 22. Language spoken, and 23. Year of migration.

These three questions are seen as an attempt to delineate people of Andhra origin from others on the basis of their nativity. This is seen as an attempt to implement the hidden agenda of the Telangana government, said Telugu Desam Parliamentary Party leader YS Chowdary at a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday. He minced no words in suggesting that the ways adopted by Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao are indeed frightening the people. Similar view was expressed by Ganta Srinivasa Rao, Minister for HRD in Andhra Pradesh government.

The questions in the survey raise several questions:

1. Why does the government want to know which state the people have come from and since when are they living in their present location? What does the government do with the reply to the 23rd query on the ‘year of migration’?

2. Why does the government want to know the bank account number when they are anyway linked to Permanent Account Numbers and CIBIL and when the government already has the data?

3. The questions under 'Division – B' regarding religion and caste are surely a cause of embarrassment. What if two generations in a family are married into different castes and the progeny cannot identify himself with one caste? Of course, democracy and electoral politics in most parts of India hover around religion and caste, what is raising many an eyebrow is the question on whether the government trying to identify and nurse newer constituencies?

4. In the same 'Division-B', column 6 deals with information on the gas connections. Supposing, two brothers are staying as a joint family, they will have to furnish the details of their respective families, though under one address, as separate units and can show separate connections. However, it applies only if the cooking is done separately. But if the kitchen is the same, the surveyor is asked to treat it as one family unit. This is causing confusion among joint families.

5. The government is insisting that all the members of every family must be present at home during the survey and if there is anybody who is absent, the family will have to produce a proof of that person’s credentials. What if a father cannot flash an evidence to prove that his son is employed in Indian Army and serving elsewhere?

6. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation commissioner has issued a statement asking people to keep Xerox copies of 18 different documents to be submitted to the surveyors. The long list includes receipts of property tax, water tax, LPG supply, bank passbooks, Adhar card, caste certificate, birth certificate, registration certificate of vehicles, ration card, voter ID, mobile phone bill, PAN card, property documents, etc. There is every possibility of some people not having voter ID. What if the family head doesn't have a voter ID or an Aadhar card? What does the government do with the copy of a birth certificate?

7. Most people may not have bank passbooks, because many banks are not issuing the same after online banking and mobile banking have become the order of the day. Many would not have mobile phone bills, as most users are saving on the bill amount by avoiding printed bills. Some service providers don’t even issue electronic bills and some put an asterisk asking people not to print the same to minimize deforestation. How do they produce copies of these?

8. What happens to wage-earners who cannot afford to skip work and don’t have a permanent address? Would they never be counted as being alive? Would the survey encompass defence quarters and military areas and inpatients of hospitals?

A myriad other doubts like these are bothering the people in the state. Though the government is contemplating a single-day survey to avoid any intentional duplication of enumeration by mischief-mongers, it is very unlikely that the process can be complete in just one day. Also, it is not clear whether the government is capable of imparting training to all the surveyors in just one week.

The state government is proposing to complete the computerization of the data by 4 September and is likely to launch another massive activity to crosscheck the veracity of the details provided by the people. While the official explanation is that is intended at enlisting the people for extending the government benefits and schemes to the needy, the real motive remains suspect.

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Updated Date: Aug 19, 2014 10:43:28 IST