Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Issue about ID cards in Delhi

The favorite way for any politician to get out of a jam is to claim that they have been misquoted; that is all that it takes. Even if the media brings out the verbatim text of the previous speech or discussion, all that the politician has to do is to claim that he or she has been misquoted, and everything is forgotten. So it proved for Delhi's Lt. Governor Tejendra Khanna, who had to reverse himself on the matter of ID cards for Delhi's citizens.

Facing flak on the issue of photo-identity cards in the capital, Lt Governor Tejendra Khanna on Monday did a U-turn on the matter, saying carrying of ID proof by the denizens would not be mandatory.
"I had never said that ID proof would be made mandatory. The message has been misunderstood. I never said without ID cards, people will be treated as culprits. Ours is an open society and no citizen can be put to unwanted discomfort," he told reporters.

The first announcement was greeted by a blanket wave of condemnation. Political parties across the board greeted the news with despair and reproached the Congress for trying something like this out. The ruling Congress even more harder hit, since apparently the Delhi Congress Government knew nothing about this, and Shiela Dixit also questioned this policy (a bit strange since the Congress runs both the Central and State Government, and the Lt. Governor is a representative of the center).
Overall, this is a fairly bad idea at this point of time. When a Chief Minister of Delhi has claimed that she is unable to regulate a valid policy about enforcing rules for Bluelines, what is the chance of a draconian regulation such as this being enforced ?
What was the exact news ? The Lt. Governor made a speech a few days back in which he said that come Jan 15, every resident of Delhi will have to have an identification card that will have to be produced if a policeman asks for it. What are the accepted cards ? Any card issues by the Government of India such as voter ID card, PAN card, passport, ration card (if it has a photo), and so on. For people who are working and don't have any of these cards, a card issues by the workplace, or a card issued by the educational institution for students will do. Now, it is nowhere necessary that every resident of Delhi will have any of these cards.
For all the poorer sections of society such as rickshaw-pullers, daily wage labourers, servants, etc, the possibility of having such cards is very low. In addition, there are many more people from other parts of India who come to Delhi, and last I checked, such migration is perfectly legal. Overall, this seemed as a very impractical idea, and the last set of people who Delhiites will believe as capable of honestly enforcing such a law is the men in police clothes. They may be brave, fighting against crooks and terrorists, but they are certainly not incorruptible; and once you have people who can be swayed with a bit of cash, then the people who will suffer the most are honest people.
There was another proposal, this envisaged driving licenses issued in other parts of the country having to be validated in Delhi before being used. This is contrary to the current Motor Vehicles Act where a driving license issued in any part of the country is valid in another part of the country. If such a policy comes in, you can be sure that other states will issue a similar directive against driving licenses issued in Delhi. And it is foolhardy to assume that licenses issued in non-Delhi places are much less safe that licenses issued in Delhi. The only good part about all this drama is that whoever in the Home Ministry thought of these schemes will not try these kind of Big Brother tactic again.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 12:35 AM