Ramlal's widow lives with her three grown-up children (two sons and a daughter). Each of them lives in a one-room kachcha hut with a common courtyard. We saw the matriarch of the family sitting on the floor sifting through a plate of lentils. The sun had begun to dip and the only source of light around us came from the pale glow of flickering diyas. Even in this darkness, we were surprised to see her picking out stones with commendable dexterity. Only a few minutes later did we realise that she could do this because she had spent the entire day in darkness.
The family demonstrated respect for their visually handicapped mother by serving her dinner first. Apparently, she was not able to use a separate chulha to prepare her own meals. But when we enquired, the extended family was completely unaware that she could nevertheless declare herself as a separate household during the census exercise. All the enumerators and respondents we met were also clueless of this provision.
But if Ramlal's widow did declare herself as a separate household, given her state of destitution, she would have a strong chance to be declared as poor and also be eligible for old-age pension. Instead, she has been included in an Above Poverty Line (APL) card with the rest of the family.
Clarity on household classification is important, as otherwise this genuinely deserving widow will be left out from her rightful pension entitlements in the twilight of her life when she needs it the most.
(Prepared by the students of IIT Delhi and Delhi University.)