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"Census worker asked me my bust size, what will they do with this data?"

21, May 2010 By Pagal Patrakar

Dear Pagal,

Yesterday afternoon I was visited by two young men who claimed they were census workers and wanted my responses for the census data. Being too excited to tell them my caste as “Indian”, I straightaway let them inside my house even though I am a single working woman. They asked the basic details like my name, date of birth, permanent residence, annual income, and went on into specifics like if I had a two-wheeler or I used a western toilet. Seriously, what do they do with such data?

I was waiting so eagerly for the caste question but oddly they never asked it. But what was the oddest in the whole experience was when they asked my bust size. I was like – excuse me? And they replied in nonchalant way, “yeah, like 33, 36, 34, etc., you know in inches.”

I was shocked, even offended, but kept my cool as I had seen many hoardings over bus-stops asking citizens of India to cooperate with the census staff. Some people had even told me that I could be penalized if I refused to answer any question. So I answered that rather offensive question, after which those guys smiled, thanked me, and went away.

But I still can’t understand why the government needs this data. Can you please let me know?

(name withheld on request)

Census worker (AP Photo/ Anupam Nath)
A census enumerator after finishing the interview

Oh dear!

I guess you would soon see yourself in some funny YouTube video or one of those many just-for-gags television shows. Or if you were fortunate, you just survived some sex offender! To the best of my knowledge, the guys who visited you were not census workers, better known as enumerators, but were either some con guys, TV guys, or simply sick guys.

I don’t blame you, but as always I’d blame the media and the government, who have put the focus on the caste issue and have forgotten to brief the citizens properly over the whole census process. The government and the media have to understand that census can be used by many people, apart from the government itself, to carry out their selfish propaganda.

Fulfilling its responsibility as a socially responsible media organization, Faking News herby lists some of the important things that you should know about census of India and save yourself from being duped:

  • Don’t let anybody walk into your house without checking their identity cards if they say they are census enumerators. Most probably they would be ugly in looks. The identity cards, not necessarily the enumerators. Also, they don’t come in groups, only one enumerator will visit your house.
  • Don’t give away photocopies of any of your documents like proof of date of birth, residence etc. The enumerator won’t ask for any proof for your responses. If they ask for any documental proof, most probably they are planning to apply for credit cards in your name.
  • Now that you know that no proof would be sought, don’t be tempted to lie or brag while answering any question. If you use state transport buses to go to your office, don’t tell them you hire AC cabs. The data would never be made public on individual level, so what’s the point?
  • It’s true that you could be penalized for refusing to answer a question, and it’s unfortunate that they never consult the civil society over the content of census questionnaire, but some questions are not yet part of the questionnaire e.g. your bust size, or even your sexual preferences even though homosexuality is no longer a punishable offence.
  • Use your common sense before answering, e.g. a census enumerator can surely ask if someone is pregnant in the family, but he or she has no business asking how and where did the member got pregnant. Similarly, they can ask about number of western or Indian toilets, but not whether you take a look at it before you flush.
  • Familiarize yourself with the questionnaire. Perhaps no media organization gave you this information, but here is the link of what a census questionnaire might look like. Try to go through the link, even though the server could be down as it’s hosted by the government (took us half an hour to retrieve it).
  • Still, if you don’t want to answer a question, you could claim that it hurts your religious or cultural sensitivity. Tell the enumerators that you find the questions provocative and offensive. It works; e.g. it is no longer necessarily for the head of the family to name the female members of his family as it was deemed to be against the customs of some communities.
  • Census enumerators normally don’t smile. They are pissed off with their job and they want to be over with their task as soon as possible. So take a close look at the body language of the enumerators.
  • When the census interview is over, the enumerators would make a sign outside your residence. Look carefully. It should not read “Pwned”. If so, inform the police or write to us.

I hope it helps and I pray that your experience with those fake census workers doesn’t come back to haunt you. By the way, what was your answer?

Yours truly, Pagal Patrakar.

Pagal Patrakar