Door-to-door Survey: A Herculean Task

Rings doorbell

Little girl peeps through the window

‘Beta, survey ke liye aaye hain. Mummy ya Papa ko bula do.’

‘Ghar pe koi nahin hai. Shaam ko aana.’

We turn around to leave, and hear a lady yell ‘Beta, kaun tha?’

Rings doorbell

Nobody answers

Rings doorbell again

A dog barks. I peep inside and see the ceiling fan running.

‘Aunty Ji!’ my field staff calls out.

Still no answer. We quietly walk away.

I assume the one sleeping under the ceiling fan is enjoying his/her afternoon nap and doesn’t want to be disturbed.

This happens couple of times during the day. The field staff accompanying me is annoyed by now. She can’t stop complaining about how snobbish city folks are. And how she likes surveys in the villages better. As for me, I travel back in time to when I was a little girl. Sometimes I would rush to open the door, hoping to see mom. But on seeing the stranger instead, slam the door on his face saying no one’s home. Sometimes, I would peep through the peephole and not open the door at all. I was told by my parents, who would both be at work, not to open the door to strangers, salespersons or survey people, the only reason being safety. I also remember my father not opening the door to surveyors at times because he wouldn’t want to be bothered with a long list of questions on a holiday – the only day he would get some shut-eye. I try to explain this to her but she just shrugs. I understand the downside of it though. Such situations hamper the survey as these households need to be revisited to collect the data. An alternative to that could be getting data from a neighbor who may not agree to help or even if he does, the data may not be accurate.

Surveys in the villages are relatively easier of course. People there always have the time and patience to answer your questions, and they are warm and welcoming too! But the real challenge there is the topography of the terrain. Scaling a hillock so that the solitary house on top is not missed out, drains you of all your energy and leaves you gasping for breath. And just when you think you’re done for the day, you spot a cluster of 15-20 houses sitting cozily on the other side of the hillock. And the sweltering heat only makes it worse. The target is to cover 80-100 houses in a day but in this case, the number hardly ever goes beyond 60.

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It is that time of the year when Educate Girls conducts its annual door-to-door survey to identify dropout and never enrolled girls in its districts. This time, I am monitoring the survey in one of its blocks in Udaipur. These are some of the experiences from my visits so far. There’s a lot more to come, we’ve only just started and we have 3 months to go. Any guesses on the number of households to be covered in Udaipur? Don’t even try. It’s over 4 lakhs – 402497 precisely. Kudos to the field staff, who work incessantly in the scorching heat, to meet the targets given to them and bring this herculean task to fruition.

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