We then walked to Dadeldhura and Baitadi to conduct the census with two assistants in tow. I met with Governor Devendra Bahadur Tumbahamphe of Dadeldhura and Governor Satyanarayana Jha of Baitadi and then crossed over to India to get to Darchula, and later Bajhang via Pithoragarh in India. In Bajhang, we met the headmaster of Satyavadi High School, who like many teachers across Nepal at the time, was Indian.
We even reached the farthest point you could go from Kathmandu in those days: the villages of Gunji, Nabi and Kuti in the disputed Kalapani and Limpiyadhura territory. The fact that the government of Nepal had actually conducted a census there in 1961 has been cited as irrefutable proof that the territory east of the main channel of the Kali River has always been a part of Nepal.
It took us another 15 days to return to Silgadi via Thalara and Khaptad. We also observed the census in southern Doti, which was going smoothly. I am 96 now, but then as a young man, I had no problem walking up and down those rugged and remote mountains.
Sixty years ago, as now, far-western Nepal was far behind the rest of the country. There were few educated people, and health and nutrition levels were dismal. If we saw any white houses with tin roofs, we understood them to be schools.
Teachers from around the villages were deployed as enumerators during the census, but there were not enough schools in the region so recruiting data collectors was a challenge in itself.
Enumerators collected data through household and individual questionnaires and earned four paisa for each person whose particulars they collected. However, it was difficult to find enumerators we could rely on. Some would consider four paisa too little to bother going after every individual, while others would over-count and exaggerate the figures to earn more money.
My position was equivalent to that of a branch officer, whose salary was Rs225, as I walked across far-western Nepal for the 1961 census.
Bhairav Risal, 96, is a veteran journalist and environmental activist.
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