Recognise Housewives as Spl Category, not "non-workers" in Census Survey 2021

Recognise Housewives as Spl Category, not "non-workers" in Census Survey 2021

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Sulabha Shertate started this petition to Registrar General & Census Commissioner (Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. Of India)

We, as housewives appeal to you to ascertain us lead a dignified lives. Our appeal is:

A. Many women do not have dignity nor assured income generally in Indian society. This is even worse for housewives who are not considered as 'working' in terms of financial and social weightage.

B. Here, housewife means a woman cohabiting with her partner under any marriage act, who does not have any source of income for herself, or could not engage in income generation activity for self on account of the responsibility of being a housewife, and who carries out all the tasks in the family with or without paid help.

C. Women go through a triple role: the reproductive, the productive and community management. Every woman in the family plays the third role, many of them have played the second role. The first role:The reproductive role comprises the childbearing/rearing responsibilities and domestic tasks undertaken by women, required to guarantee the maintenance and reproduction of the labour force. It includes not only biological reproduction but also the care and maintenance of the workforce (husband and working children) and the future workforce (infants and school going children). 

D. In the Census of India till 2011, women playing only the second role - productive are categorized as 'workers'. Now, even if a woman is not working in farm or factory  but have played the first or the third, how can one say that she is a 'non-worker'?

E. This issue is being raised often by the Apex Court in the past. For example,  Hon. Shri Ashok Kumar Ganguly in a judgement by as a member of a Supreme Court bench (ref. Supreme Court of India, Arun Kumar Agrawal & Anr vs National Insurance Co. Ltd. & Ors on 22 July, 2010-CIVIL APPEAL NO.5843 OF 2010(Arising out of SLP(C) No.19655 of 2004), he has said:

              "4…..In the Census of 2001 it appears that those who are doing household duties like cooking, cleaning of utensils, looking after constitutional mandate to children, fetching water, collecting firewood have been categorized as non-workers and equated with beggars, prostitutes and prisoners who, according to Census, are not engaged in economically productive work. As a result of such categorization about 36 crores (367 million) women in India have been classified in the Census of India, 2001 as non-workers and placed in the category of beggars, prostitutes and prisoners. This entire exercise of Census operation is done under an Act of Parliament.


           12….. We hope and trust that in the on-going Census operation this will be corrected."

F. Under an application RTI Act, We had asked the Office of The Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India recently as to whether the Office is acting as per the Apex Court's  'hope and trust' to consider housewives as a special category in other than as 'non-workers'.  We were shocked and surprised with their response. It says: 

"...(N)o action has been initiated to consider homemaker/housewife as a special category in  other than as 'non-workers' in Census 2021. However, in the Census proforma, "Questions 20 and 21 are meant for only Marginal Workers and Non-Workers. Please note that the major part of the year spent, by a Non-Worker or Marginal Worker during the reference period, would be in non-economic activity. The non-economic activities of Marginal Workers and Non-Workers will be recorded in codes under Question 20. The non-economic activities forwhich codes have been provided under this question are Student, Household duties, Dependent,
Pensioner, Rentier, Beggar and Other. (

G. This in fact dashes the hope expressed by the Apex Court quoted above. It still remains as a 'Non Economic Activity' along with beggars, rentiers, under trial prisoners and convicts, 'prostitutes' (socially advanced societies consider them as sex workers) . We feel irritated by this insensitivity towards the housewives by non action by Office of the Registrar General of Census of India, It takes us back by a century at least. 

F. A small change of providing a distinct recognition to us would ensure

  • a distinct identity and social status
  • independent decision making even though she is not an 'earning' member
  • generate a separate data  for understanding the invisible economic contribution of housewives
  • determine the scope for providing an entitlement to housewives

Hon'ble Prime Minister, you are well aware of the debate took place during the previous government in 2013, about the economic contribution of the Housewives not just to the family but to the National Economic by almost 27%! 

Therefore,  Hon'ble Prime Minister, we appeal to at least take the first step of the recognition of enormous contribution to the human and economic capital of the nation, that housewives have made under the culture of India, by ensuring that Housewives are categorized under a Special Category during Census 2021 - and under any other classification. This can facilitate the scope for entitlement and dignity to her in society.

Image Courtesy: Clip from the film "Lunchbox"

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