Maratha survey: Ticklish questionnaire, reluctant public make exercise painful | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Maratha survey: Ticklish questionnaire, reluctant public make exercise painful

Jan 30, 2024 12:58 PM IST

It is a challenging task as there is confusion among a section of public about the survey while others are refusing to part with information.

Mumbai: The survey to classify the real Marathas in the state to facilitate reservation in the Other Backward Class (OBC) category took off on January 23, with a deadline of January 31. After many parleys between leaders of the ruling combine, including chief minister Eknath Shinde, with Maratha activist Manoj Jarange-Patil who led the present movement, foot soldiers from various government departments are out to complete the job.

Mumbai, India, Jan 23, 2024 - Government officials conducting a door to door survey in Mumbai, gathering empirical data to establish the backwardness of the Maratha Community. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde announced it on Saturday. Shinde directed the State administration to carry out this survey which covers Maratha and non-Maratha open categories. The BMC has deployed over 10 thousand officers and staff to conduct the survey. Jan 23, 2024. (Photo by Raju Shinde/HT Photo)
Mumbai, India, Jan 23, 2024 - Government officials conducting a door to door survey in Mumbai, gathering empirical data to establish the backwardness of the Maratha Community. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde announced it on Saturday. Shinde directed the State administration to carry out this survey which covers Maratha and non-Maratha open categories. The BMC has deployed over 10 thousand officers and staff to conduct the survey. Jan 23, 2024. (Photo by Raju Shinde/HT Photo)

It is a challenging task as there is confusion among a section of public about the survey while others are refusing to part with information. Some workers have had to wait for around an hour at the gates of housing societies to gain entry.

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On Sunday night, Marathi actor Pushkar Jog expressed his opposition to the exercise on X, with a post that read: “A female BMC employee came to my home and asked my caste. If it were a male employee, I would have beaten him.”

On Monday, secretary of the municipal union Ramakant Bane wrote to the CM, asking for legal action against the actor, as “he had obstructed government’s work and discouraged their efforts”. Later in the evening, the actor apologised on the social media platform with a post: “I only believe in humanity not in caste. My post didn’t mean to hurt sentiments of any individual.”

Also read: For Marathas, Jarange-Patil is now a superhero

Around 30,000 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) employees have to visit 39 lakh houses to collect data. Officials from legal, engineering, health and education departments have been deployed for the purpose, which has affected civic works. Each surveyor has to visit 150 houses every day to gather information; each questionnaire has 154 queries, many embarrassing.

Awkward queries

A teacher deputed for the survey pointed out how she was embarrassed to ask questions such as ‘do you take dowry before marriage?’ or ‘do you defecate in the open’. “People get angry and demand an explanation of the connection between such questions and reservations,” she said.

Another teacher from the Maratha community on the job said people resisted parting with information about their incomes and properties. “If these issues are not resolved, the survey will serve no purpose. We have informed our superiors, but they seem focused only on completing the task,” she said.

A teacher also highlighted technical glitches with the mobile application. “There are errors – many castes and sub-castes are not mentioned, leading people to question the survey,” she said.

Resistance movement

Opposition was faced from citizens residing in highrises and those belonging to the minority community in Kurla, Dharavi, Jogeshwari East, which have a strong Muslim population. They fear the survey is being conducted under the guise of collecting data for National Register of Citizens (NRC). Rumours are doing the rounds on social media fuelling misinformation, and the administration has to take extra care to quell them.

Dr S Gujar, medical officer of health (MOH), L-ward, said surveyors were denied access in highrises in Powai, Chandivali, Kurla, Nehru Nagar and Kohinoor City. “We roped in former corporators, MLAs and MPs to help citizens cooperate with civic officials,” said Gujar. He added, till Sunday, 70% homes were covered. He has 1834 enumerators who cover 150 houses each day.

Meraj Hussain, social activist in Dharavi in G-North ward added clerics have been asked to step in, as they did during the pandemic when there was much misinformation about the vaccine. Mahendra Khandade, MOH from K-East ward (Jogeshwari, Vile Parle and Andheri) said most citizens from highrises said they would not divulge information, if they were not told earlier.

“We got a 30% refusal rate. At least 40,000 people have refused us from the 2.4 lakh houses covered. We have three days left to convince them through email,” he said. “The perception is that the survey is only to classify Marathas, and not those from the open category.”

An enumerator from G-South shared that BMC’s teams had to visit society’s offices in buildings such as Nestle Apartments, Lodha Crest and Lodha One, to convince them to participate in the survey. Another enumerator from the ward underlined glitches with the app. “There was resistance from scheduled caste communities from BDD chawl as initially there was no option for the Buddhists. The app was updated thereafter,” he said.

A civic official experienced citizens’ reluctance in areas that do not support the present government – Worli’s G-South constituency, that supports Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Aaditya Thackeray’s leadership, is one. “They are not comfortable disclosing their financial status and educational qualifications,” he said.

The MOH in G-South ward has formed three teams which function like vigilance groups comprising medical officers, sanitary inspectors, clerical staff, data operators to spread the good word about the exercise. Vehicles have been provided for the purpose. “It has been a challenge to win the trust of secretaries of housing societies. We have had to involve shakha pramukhs and vibhaag pramukhs to dispel negative thought. We completed 90% of the task on Monday. We have kept the last day to visit locked houses,” he said, adding they faced 23,651 such houses in the ward till Sunday.

“The reasons for locked homes could be many – daily wage workers in slums return late while some are away on transfer of jobs. We have allocated night duties now,” he said.

Also read: ‘I don’t agree': Union minister warns of unrest after Shinde govt's decision on Maratha agitation

Aaditya Thackeray brushed aside any notion of an anti-government stance and said there was much confusion in the air. “Largely, officials have been unable to convey to citizens the purpose of the survey. Many are asking if this is official at all,” he said.

Thackeray’s statement bears out – while Sumant Bhange, secretary of state Social Welfare Department, said the contract for the survey was given to the state Backward Class commission, Ashwini Patil, member secretary of the commission said nothing was amiss with the way the survey is being conducted.

(With inputs from Yogesh Naik and Sabah Virani)

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