Limitations of the Census 2011- BEWARE! -We will be excluded once again

It has been observed by Muscular Dystrophy Foundation India that the census 2011 questionnaire has been improved a little as compared to the questionnaire used in Census 2001. While most of the questions found in the census 2001 have been retained, the question about disability has been improvised in details and as well as the importance as presented below;

Census 2001

Census 2011


Disability was question no.15

Proposed to be question number 9

Chances of quality response from the interviewee is high since the question has been moved up and even the question about mother tongue comes only next to disability. 

There were only 5 types (seeing, hearing, speech, movement and mental retardation) of disabilities listed

3 more types (Mental illness, any other type and multiple disabilities) are proposed to be included.

Appreciable development. Still, the rigidity of coding limits the scope of enumeration. Any other type doesn’t make any sense since it does not provide for specifying the type of disability.

No question about availability of National Disability Identity Card/Certificate

There will be a sub question to ascertain & record the availability of National Disability Identity Card/Certificate

Duplicating effort? This data must be available already with all the states and through them the centre.

As you see, the addition of 3 more categories of disability does not help much. Although, mental retardation and mental illness are different from each other and requires separate listing, the level of awareness among the general public to differentiate the two might hamper the spirit of the questionnaire. We are afraid that it might cause duplication over the two types and render the data less authentic and useful. Mental retardation being temporary and curable, it could have been replaced by some other long ignored/neglected diseases like muscular dystrophy, autism, cerebral palsy etc.

Even the new addition as, ‘Any other type” would not be of great use since it fails to provide for specifying the type of disability within it. It has been said to be numerically coded as an independent category without qualitative provisions OR sub-codes for specific types of disabilities. In other words, it only requires all other neglected types of disabilities to be recorded under one single category of ‘any other type’. No doubt, this would severely limit the scope of further classifying of the data except to count the number of persons with disabilities falling under this category BUT making the type of disability mysterious.

Also, it is to be noted that the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has recommended to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA is responsible for the Census) to drop the category of speech disability since it is not listed in the PWD Act as a separate type. MoSJE further explained that speech disability occurs only if a person has disability in hearing. Thus, both types (speech & hearing) of disability would be covered under a common code for hearing/speech disability. However, it seems that the MoHA has not considered the recommendations of the MoSJE but decided to retain speech and hearing disabilities as two separate categories as in the past.  It would be unfortunate if the MoHA has to finalize the questionnaire in the same mode at the cost of other forms of disabilities like muscular dystrophy.