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13may20101Dharamshala: Data collection for the 2011 Indian National Census is continuing in Dharamshala, including Tibetans in its count for the first time.

Authorities have been surveying residents in Himachal Pradesh since the 7th April and will continue to do so until the official closing date of 22nd May. Data collection in Mcleod Ganj may continue after this period, as there is currently only one enumerator for the area.

The census is gathering demographic information on a national scale and includes Tibetans residing in India for over 6 months. This is the first time that Tibetans have been included in the Indian census, which collects data on the population of India every ten years. The census consists of two sections, the first comprises 35 questions relating to housing and assets issues, whilst the second focuses on information for the National Population Register, with questions on gender, age, occupation and nationality.

All those who take part in the census are eligible for the new Unique Identity Card (UIC). Benefits include a ration card which allows individuals to purchase items such as rice, gas and sugar at government rates. The Settlement Officer at the Tibetan Welfare Office based in Dharamshala, Mr Tsering Phuntsok, explains that Tibetans will therefore receive ‘everything that the people of India get, except the voting card'.

An official notice was given by the Tibetan Welfare Office in April, informing residents of the census and urging everyone to take part to make obtaining a UIC possible. A receipt is given on completion of the census forms, which must be kept and then submitted when applying for the future UIC.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, has himself already completed the census at the beginning of the month and encourages all Tibetans in exile to do the same. According to the 2009 Demographic Survey of Tibetans in Exile, there are currently over 15,000 Tibetans residing in Dharamshala.