Census 2011 has been a very positive experience for N.C.P.E.D.P. and the disability sector so far. Not only do we have a very cooperative and sensitised person at the helm of things: Dr C Chandramouli, Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, we also have seen tremendous zeal in the disability sector this time. The basic spadework has been done. It is now time to ensure that the last disabled person in the country is made aware of Question number 9. As the clock ticks closer to the day of reckoning, Dorodi Sharma of D.N.I.S. takes a look at all the news streaming in from all over the country about strategies used to create awareness among all stakeholders.
The journey to get proper enumeration of people with disabilities in Census 2011 started some year and a half back. This journey has seen big achievements like the question getting revised, the question being moved up, dedicated modules on disability for trainers and enumerators, and a slot on disability in the training of trainers and enumerators. However, the two big challenges in this campaign were/are: the enumerator actually asking the question and the respondent truthfully answering the question.
There are 270,000 enumerators and some 70 million people with disabilities! A humongous task! While efforts to train enumerators have been addressed to a large extent, the bigger challenge now is to make people with disabilities and their family and friends aware of the importance of answering this question. With increased awareness, even if an enumerator were to not ask the question on disability, the respondent can be alert and ensure that the question is asked and responses filled up. National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.) along with its partners in various States and Union Territories has been actively trying to raise awareness on the issue. For a resource crunched civil society this is a mammoth task in a country of India’s size. Here is a look at the strategies used.
N.C.P.E.D.P. along with its partners organised State Consultations on Disability and Census 2011 in Karnataka (August 31, 2010 in Bengaluru); Tamil Nadu (September 3, 2010 in Chennai); Andhra Pradesh (October 5, 2010 in Hyderabad); Uttar Pradesh (January 19, 2011 in Lucknow); and Gujarat (January 30, 2011 in Ahmedabad). Another one is now due in Bihar (February 7, 2011 in Patna).
South Zone and North Zone Consultations were also held on this issue. While the South Zone Consultation was held in Chennai on January 8, 2011, the North Zone Consultation was held in New Delhi on January 15, 2011. In each of these Consultations, near about 100 disabled people and disability sector leaders participated. There were vigorous discussions on low cost publicity strategies to spread the word to the last disabled person and her/his family. The strategies included taking out rallies, liaising with the local media through press releases, press conferences, printing of handbills, posters and pamphlets.
The Tamil Nadu consultation was held in association with Vidya Sagar; the Andhra Pradesh one with Network of the Persons with Disability Organisation (N.P.D.O.); in Uttar Pradesh in association with School for Potential Advancement and Restoration of Confidence (S.P.A.R.C.) India; in Gujarat with the Disability Advocacy Group (D.A.G.); and in Bihar, the event is being organised in association with Adarsh Viklang Seva Sansthan. The North Zone Consultation was held in collaboration with Action for Ability Development and Inclusion (A.A.D.I.) and in the South Zone, it was organised in association with Vidya Sagar.
What was heartwarming was that many other disability organisations carried the baton down to their constituencies. For example, B. Venkatesh in association with Sanchar, Basic Needs, A.D.D. India, etc. brought out a handbill on the question on disability and the importance of getting authentic figures on the population of people with disabilities in the country. This handbill was translated into various other languages and used as an awareness tool.
Several of our partners took ownership of the whole issue and came out with their own publicity strategies to take the word further down to the grassroots.
Speakers at the Gujarat Consultation
In Tamil Nadu, Disability Legislation Unit (D.L.U.), South under Vidya Sagar is leading the campaign. Awareness rallies are being planned on February 2. Besides that, local cable television channels are being tapped to spread the word and a one minute ad film is being planned to be aired. A video on the issue in Sign Language has been made and C.D.s of it are being distributed. This has also been uploaded on YouTube.
Another State where tremendous work has happened is Orissa. Swabhiman, led by Dr. Sruti Mohapatra is undertaking several activities to spread awareness among all stakeholders. Twelve young volunteers travelled across the length and breadth of Orissa to talk, discuss, answer questions and also appeal for accurate enumeration of people with disabilities.
A State level seminar on the issue was organised on January 18. It was followed by 30 district level seminars. A film on ‘Get Yourself Counted’ has been made for regional language television channels. Swabhiman is also in touch with radio stations to air interviews of Dr. Mohapatra on this issue. They are also getting the issue covered on television talk shows, among other things. Handbills, posters, and leaflets in Oriya are being distributed in villages and to enumerators.
Swabhiman is also collaborating with various Government departments to spread awareness – from panchayat leaders to anganwadi workers to self help groups.
In Andhra Pradesh, besides the State Consultation on this issue, N.P.D.O. also got pamphlets, posters and leaflets in Telegu distributed. Volunteers covered 23 districts in the State to spread awareness. Traditional media like street plays are being used.
Encouraging reports also streamed in from Jammu and Kashmir. A rally was organised under the leadership of our partner, Javed Ahmed Tak in Srinagar on January 4. He wrote to all stakeholders, including the Governor and the Chief Minister seeking support. Javed is also in touch with Doordarshan and All India Radio (A.I.R.). A pamphlet in Urdu is being distributed.
In Himachal Pradesh, C.O.R.D. is liaising with local organisations, women’s groups, panchayats, youth groups, village development committees and the local media. In Punjab, the media is being motivated to cover the issue through a press meet. A.I.R. has carried one such broadcast. In Goa, handbill in Konkani is being distributed by our partner Caritas – Goa. Churches and chapels are also making regular announcements to urge people with disabilities to get themselves counted. In West Bengal, Disability Activists Forum and Sanchar translated the handbill into Bangla and are working on other publicity material. Sanchar also translated the handbill into a few other languages like Oriya and Assamese.
In Puducherry, N.C.P.E.D.P.’s Honorary Director, Javed Abidi had a press meet on September 4, which led to considerable coverage in the local media. Leaflets in Tamil are being distributed among stakeholders. In Maharashtra, Marathi handbills are being distributed and local media is being tapped. In Andaman, Disha is organising a rally on February 9. In Karnataka, several organizations like the C.B.R. Forum, Leonard Cheshire Disability (L.C.D.), etc. are working towards spreading awareness. L.C.D. formed an alliance of N.G.O.s and had the handbill in local languages distributed in 30 districts. They are also planning a press meet in the first week of February. In Gujarat, D.A.G. distributed the handbill in Gujarati widely. At the State Consultation, D.A.G. members also came out with several strategies like a S.M.S. campaign, sending post cards and issuing press releases.
Although positive news keeps coming in from several States, there are still a few missing links. The North East seems to have lagged behind from the rest of the country. The difficulty of terrain and lack of reach of national media in that part of the country, in addition to the lack of proper awareness activities might not spell well for the sector and this campaign.
However, what has been most heartwarming is the way the disability sector has joined hands to take this campaign forward. There is a pronounced increase in awareness levels and enthusiasm among the stakeholders than the last time around. Hopefully, this will translate into increased numbers. Although in a country of more than 1 billion people, predicting anything is easier said than done. We have our fingers crossed!