Third Sex Count in no Man’s Land
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02 February 2011
By Siddharth Gadkari
Census officials ‘scared’to approach eunuchs to ask‘personal’queries
The world’s largest headcount has begun. This time the Indian census programme is unique because the central government is going to count members of the third gender, who are popularly known as eunuchs. In the census form, the third gender comes under the head ‘other’.
However, this decision is facing a problem. The authorities are finding it hard to convince the enumerators to count the "others", as they fear the third sex may attack them if they ask "personal questions", as one enumerator put it on condition of anonymity.
The census is conducted in two phases. The first phase was completed on June 15, 2010. The second phase will start on February 9, 2011. A week back, in the second phase, the census authority had arranged meetings to instruct census officers on how to carry out the survey. According to data collected by voluntary organisations, there are almost 2,000 members of the third gender. They are concentrated in Bhavani Peth, Budhwar Peth, Nana Peth, Shivajinagar, Railway Station, Hadapsar, Khadki, Dapodi, Pimpri, Akurdi, Talegaon and Lonavla.
Pune Mirror had spoken to various officials about the incorporation of the third gender in the census. One official said on condition of anonymity, that they generally see "eunuchs at traffic signals and other such areas. They are horrible. They torture people with their behaviour and use profane language. How can we communicate with them? We are afraid." A female enumerator said they "don’t even behave properly with the men. We never interact with them. We are confused and do not know how to speak them."
Pune Municipal Commissioner Mahesh Zagade said that in the second phase of census, 29 questions are asked. "One of the questions is to do with one’s sex. There are three options: male, female and other. This is a first," he added.
Sunil Kesri, ward officer of Kasba-Vishrambaugwada ward office, put the "problem" in perspective. "Budhwar Peth is a red light area and it is under my supervision. We will conduct the survey next week. We have deputed only male enumerators for the job. Besides that, PMC employees working in the area will accompany them. We have also decided to take the help of social worker and NGOs."
"We had given instructions on how to conduct the survey. There are 14 ward officer. Under their supervision 7,396 enumerators will conduct the survey," census officer Jitendra Astikar said.
However, members of the third gender have a different story. Surekha, a member of this gender, said that they were just like anybody else. "We are normal. But people don’t feel that way. They hate us. We don’t trouble anyone. We always cooperate with government officials. But we don’t understand why they get scared. There is no need to fear us."
Haneef, founder of Udaan, an NGO that works with the third gender, had a similar viewpoint. "They are human beings too. They never create trouble. Our society portrays a negative picture. Members of the third gender behave rudely because they are insecure and are often insulted. If government officials are scared, we are ready to help them."
Astikar said census work was "national duty and no one can refuse to do it". "If someone refuses, he or she will be booked under the Census Act, 1948. One enumerator had refused some work and I had to lodge a police complaint. Finally, the police made him to work," he added.
For the first time, enumerators will note the availability of toilets, drinking water, electricity and the type of houses people live in, to create a comprehensive picture of living conditions in India. They will also take fingerprints and photographs of every person and collect information on the internet, via mobile phones and bank accounts. However, including the third gender in the census will be easier said than done.