LAHORE: Although the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) has devised a comprehensive plan to hold the much-awaited population and housing census across the country from March 15, the Punjab government will carry out the exercise in the province from March 18.
The sixth census will be held in two phases across the country, but Punjab is yet to decide the districts to be covered in the first phase. It is learnt that the decision will be taken keeping in view recommendations of the upcoming meeting of corps commanders informing the PBS when the army will be finding it convenient to move its men for security of the census enumerators in the field.
While the decennial census has been overdue since 2008, Punjab had recorded a population of 73.621 million in the 1998 exercise.
The PBS will begin the house listing and population census in one go. As per plans, the house listing exercise will be conducted from March 15 to 17 and the main headcount from March 18, which will be completed in 10 days. On the last day, the enumerators will count homeless and mobile population.
A similar second-phase exercise will begin in the remaining districts of Punjab in April.
In the headcount exercise, data will be collected about each person’s name, gender, age, marital status, religion, mother-tongue, nationality, literacy and education, identity card number (or no card) and occupation. A pro forma has been designed to be filled in by the enumerator with the required data.
In Punjab, the PBS has declared 166 census districts, including Cholistan desert and terror-hit tribal areas of Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur.
Scaling down the area further, Punjab has declared 1,556 census charge, 11,000 census circles and around 87,000 census blocks. Each census block, the actual enumeration area, comprises 200-250 houses.
Unlike last year, the federal government has this year decided that one enumerator will conduct house-listing and headcount exercises in two blocks — apparently to slash the staff and army personnel strength by half.
Since one enumerator will conduct census in two blocks, the PBS has proposed that the federal government may double the enumerators’ honorarium which was Rs17,000 during the last exercise.
PBS’ Punjab Census Commissioner Arif Anwar Baloch says the bureau has nomination of more than 43,000 enumerators from the revenue, school education, health and local government departments, besides a few thousand spare staff to meet emergency requirements, including absence of nominated staff.
He says the army has also shown availability of personnel for comprehensive security of enumerators during the exercise. Police will be responsible for law and order in the areas under the exercise.
Besides arranging census material and logistics, Mr Baloch says the PBS has already imparted training to the master trainers, who will train the trainers responsible for imparting necessary skills to the 43,000 enumerators in their respective census districts in February. With only 14 days in hand, the enumerators will list and count residential and non-residential units and prepare inventory of households during the first three days of the exercise.
Every shanty or shelter or where people are living, including boats, will be considered a house in the census data. The main headcount will be held during the next 10 days and the 14th day will be used for counting homeless and mobile population.
Since it would have been difficult to ensure proper census coverage of hard areas, including Cholistan, D.G. Khan and Rajanpur, the provincial census commissioner says these areas have separately been declared census districts.
The Cholistan Development Authority head and assistant political agents have been notified as census district officers (CDOs) in these areas.
The federal government has already notified commissioners as heads of the divisional census coordination committees, deputy commissioners (DCs) as district census coordinators and assistant commissioners (ACs) as well as cantonment executive officers as CDOs.
The chief secretary will act as head of the provincial census coordination committee.
The PBS says the CDOs will be required to take care of all logistic requirements, besides supervising the census activities in their respective districts. The bureau will also establish a control room at the provincial level to coordinate the whole exercise across the province.
Meanwhile, it has been learnt that the PBS has this time decided to disburse funds for census exercise directly to the DCs and political agents for speedy disbursement to the field staff. The decision has been taken in view of the bad experience of disbursing funds through the chief secretaries of the respective provinces during the house-listing exercise in 2011. The funds had not reached the CDOs till the completion of the exercise.
The Punjab government had given Rs1.25 billion to the federal government for holding the census in the province, a finance department official told Dawn.