If all goes well, the 2011 census will refine its questionnaire in a bid to determine how many to Indians really suffer from disability.
The 2001 census came up with a figure of 2.13 percent of the Indian population. This, experts say, is way off the mark.
And since government schemes are based on statistics, it is important to get the estimates right.
As a first step, the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), an NGO, Monday convened a meeting with various stakeholders to frame questions to determine the size of the disabled population while conducting the census.
C. Chandramouli, the registrar general and census commissioner of India, said he would present the questions to the technical advisory committee for approval.
'Despite a sizeable disabled population, the 1991 census did not have any statistic on it. In 2001, after year-long consultations with NGOs, at the very last moment one question on disability was included in the census,' said Javed Abidi, the NCPEDP director.
But the 2.7 million primary school teachers conducting the census were not trained to handle the question. Nor did they have enough knowledge on disability. So the census showed that only 2.13 percent of the population suffered from disability, he added.
A UN study says 10 percent of all developing countries' population suffer from some disability. A later independent study by the NCPEDP showed that six-seven percent of the Indian population was disabled.
'This meant that while the government officially recognises 20-30 million disabled people, 50-60 million are invisible. This is serious, especially because all government schemes are based on statistics. Therefore, we have decided to help the census commission frame questions to help evaluate the correct population of the disabled,' Abidi said.
The questions, Abidi said, will be such that all categories of disability like autism will be included and not just visual and hearing disabilities. Also, members of the NCPEDP would have a special interactive session with 725 master trainers on the subject.
The master trainers will in turn train 54,000 trainers, who will train the 2.7 million people who will go door-to-door conducting the survey.