Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Intensive Household Survey - Telangana Government's Initiative

The survey people came on August 17, 2014 which is the pre visit 1, followed by pre visit 2 and then the actual survey.

Pre visit 1 on August 17, 2014 was pleasant enough. One well dressed young man who was very polite came to our door. He was a drug inspector. He handed me two papers - one which needed me to fill in details and another which explains why the survey is being done - it is aimed at creating a database of all households in Telangana and plan for a Bangaru Telangana to ensure proper services and targeting benefits. The papers also ask us to cooperate with the enumerator. We must fill the check slip and keep all documents handy. I have no problem because I have little to declare.

Pre visit 2 on August 18, 2014, we must keep the check slip filled and all documents ready as far as possible. The documents listed areas follows.
1) Drinking water connection copy
2) LPG connection copy
3) Post office/ savings bank account copy
4) Caste certificate copy
5) Disabled copy
6) Pattedar pass book or title deed copy
7) Voter Id Card
8) PAN card
9) House property document allotment order copy
10) House property tax receipt
11) Electricity bill
12) Aadhar card
13) Birth certificate copy
14) RC book of all vehicles copy
15) Mobile phone bill
16) Weaker section housing certificate
17) Pension pass book
18) Ration card

By the time all these three visits are done we would have photo copied close to about 30 pages of documents. But after some initial confusion (and copies made) the GHMC declared that copies are not required. Our word is good enough.

Yesterday one lad landed up at my sister's home. They had no pre visit 1 so their first visit turned out to be the last visit. He filled in all the details in a big book with a pen. He was a student. He said that he had about 40 houses to cover and he felt he might not be able to cover them all so he started a day early. Two questions that got me were - how many rooms are there in your house and whether you have any air conditioning.

Today our own enumerator came early. He was at my place by 820 am and he had already covered 11 houses. The same polite young man. He copied all the data I gave on his bog book. He asked me how many rooms, caste and community, religion and nature of work, number of pets and livestock. I noted that the air conditioning question was missing - I did not want someone to take away my poor Samsung air conditioner because I had not declared it. he said since I had not written in the pre survey form he had ignored it. I was surprised. How did I miss it? Then I saw it. It was listed under the vehicles - how may vehicles do you have - 2 wheeler/3 wheeler, four wheeler and under that air conditioner. Logically I thought the next question would be about buses or lorries and left it at that. I hope it was not about the ac in my car!

Now that all the information has been collected, we can be safely assured of moving on towards the Bangaru Telangana. The only few things that were missing are our IT returns, health records, details of household purchases bought, health records, insurance details, vacations taken, movies watched, malls visited, expenditure on hotels and parks and some other stuff I might have missed out. I can provide those details too willingly.

But the lighter note apart (don't want big brother to get offended), I am waiting to see what this survey will bring about. The intentions are right one must say - and fake beneficiaries must be weeded out. But in my opinion a survey like this will hit the bottom part of the population the most. The people who may have struggled to get all the papers together one way or another, so they can earn a livelihood and provide for their families. Most times they will find it difficult to get all papers right too. From their meagre earnings they also pay for the utilities and other services the government provides. It is these sections who will get hit, irrespective of where they hail from and what they are claiming as benefits. The top part, the people with the wherewithal to buy their way out of things will have all the documents, more than what may be necessary, and can even pick and choose what information they want to give. What if a rich man chooses not to divulge his bank details, his properties, his air conditioners, his pet animals and his live stock?

Our country is ruled by a fiction. We believe that the figures we see are the reality that is. That an Aadhar card, a passport, a ration card will solve our problems. The problem lies not there - it lies in the impossible difficulty of getting the entire system to work honestly and transparently. Why don't we question who has given permission to unauthorised structures that are being broken down? Why are there illegal water connections? Why are there illegal power connections? Why are there so many illegal beneficiaries? Who is to blame? Who is accountable to ensure it happens right? Why is the accountability not being questioned? How has such a mess been made? And who is now being made to pay for this - the consumer? 

The only reality is that over 90% people struggle to make a living, to protect what they earn. They are constantly asked to prove themselves. To do that they need to make hundreds of trips to offices, bribe people, get things done and still receive no service from any of the service providers the government has listed. How about asking all the consumers in the survey a couple more questions. Ask them what problems they are facing from the government departments and service providers?That would also give a fair idea of how things are functioning. The problem is not only with the consumers, it lies in equal share with the administrators.

Lao Tzu says that governments should rule by the lightest of feather touches, that the people must be not bound by too many rules and regulations. We may have the right intentions and one does not question the intent of KCR and his government - I am all for rooting out illegal and fake beneficiaries eating away. I only wonder how such an intent may be counter productive to the outcome one wants. Clearly he wants to make a difference and does not mind making enemies in pursuit of his dream of making a Bangaru Telangana. All of us would love to see the state prosper and to help it develop. But by going hard at the already beleaguered population which is confused by the partition, one may not only make more enemies but also lose out on a popular base. The key is not in breaking down existing structures, but in retaining them and creating more efficient and much bigger systems that will lead to the outcomes one wants. The way is to create more good so people flow towards that and overcome the evils that exist.

The intent is good. The effort humongous. The city of Hyderabad has been effectively shut down - my neighbourhood park was shut down too! I only hope it bears fruit and results in the outcome one wants.  

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