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Street children, homeless gear up for Census

New Delhi: Street and homeless children here are excited about their enumeration and are spreading awareness about it through their own newspaper and roadside meetings.

Homeless on the streets across India will be enumerated on February 28 under the second phase of Census 2011.

The latest issue of `Balaknama`, a tabloid written and edited by homeless children from `Badhte Kadam`, the federation of street and working children, talks about the benefits of the census and asks all the homeless people to stay in Delhi on February 28 for enumeration.

"This census is very important for homeless people. We want to be counted as it will serve as our identity proof.

Also, this counting will help the government to make policies for our welfare," says Vijay Kumar, the 16-year-old national secretary of `Badhte Kadam`.

Apart from their newspaper, these children are holding roadside meetings and visiting streets, temples, railway stations and footpaths to spread awareness about the census among the homeless living there.

Though the 2001 Census of India counted 24,966 homeless citizens in Delhi in that year, the rough estimates by various NGOs put the numbers between 1 lakh to 1.5 lakh at present.

"We are trying to make sure that maximum number of homeless are enumerated in this Census. This data will be basis for demanding better facilities for them from government in future," says Sanjay Gupta, convener of Bal Adhikar Abhiyan, an NGO working for welfare of children.

Homeless people face a lot of problems in the city, the worst being in winter when they have to spend chilly nights without a roof. The NGOs say they are trying to ensure maximum possible headcount of the homeless this time.

"We will request the government to hold enumeration of homeless on two days, February 28 and March 1, since it may not be possible to do the counting in one day. Our volunteers are ready to help the enumerators and have the experience of last census," says Indu Prakash Singh from Indo-Global Social Service Society, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working with homeless people.

Subrata De, who works for welfare of homeless for the NGO Action Aid says they will put up posters regarding the counting of the homeless people and will meet the enumerators of their area to ofer them help during the final counting of the homeless.

Gupta says the concerns regarding the timing of the Census and criteria to be counted as homeless have been conveyed to the Census Director and they have been assured about it.

"Enumerators have been told to visit their areas atleast once before the final count so that they have an idea of the situation. Some of them were concerned about dealing with alcoholics and drug addicts late in the night. That will be taken care of as well," says an official from Delhi Census department.

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