One fine day I receive an email from the HR department stating, "This is to bring to your urgent attention that your nationality details are not updated in our records. This is extremely important from a compliance perspective. Please provide one the following information urgently and not later than November 23, 2010". !!!
When I was scanning the list of the 'following information', it struck me, "Do we really have a nationality document?" We don't really have one document to validate our Indian nationality. The constitution is deficient in not have one citizenship document.
I also realised that we commonly hear questions like 'which are the citizenship proof documents that are required to apply for a passport?' Surprisely, there are hardly any national debates discussing the topic of having a mandatory piece of document to prove citizenship.
The most accepted definition (Marshall - 1965) of citizenship is that it comprises three elements - civil, political and social element. The civil element refers to the right of the individual - the freedom of speech and faith, the right to own property and to justice. The political element is portrayed as the right to directly or indirectly participate in the exercise of political power. The implementation of this right pertains to political representation. The social element covers the whole range from the right to economic welfare & security, to the right to live the life of a civilized being to the standards prevailing in the society.
A unique nationality proof would go a long way in ensuring a just implementation of all the three elements for the authorised citizens of the country.
Germany has the German ID card as the primary proof, apart from the German passport that presumes German nationality for assistance from German consular officials abroad. Same is with Sweden where the tangible proof of Swedish citizenship is the national passport or the national identification card.
As for the United States of America, the certificate of US citizenship is the only document issued by the US Government as proof of US citizenship.
British citizenship may be proved by a British passport, a Certificate of Entitlement to Right of Abode, a British consular birth certificate, a nationality status letter or a Certificate of Registration issued by the Home Office. It may seem 4 documents, but actually there are all related to various types of citizenship.
In Singapore, prior to 1965, even aliens could work there as long as there was someone employing them. However, they too introduced work permits and travel restrictions. Non-citizens could no longer work and had to apply for work permits.
Likewise, most developed countries have a clear policy on citizenship proof, which India seems to lack.
The information that I had to provide to prove my nationality was 'one of the following':
- Voters ID Number
- Passport number, Date of issue of passport and Date of Expiry
- Copy of Domicile certificate
Voters ID card or Electors Photo Identity Card(EPIC) is an identification card issued by the Election Commission to all eligible voters, to enable voter identification on election day. However, the irony is that the voters ID card is NOT essential for voting. The only requirement is the presence of your name in the list of registered voters i.e., electoral rolls or voter list of your polling booth and an identity proof.
Passport is perceived to be document required if there is a need or capability to travel out of India. Penetration of passport in the rural areas therefore, is almost negligible.
A Domicile/Residence Certificate is generally issued to get college admissions and jobs in the Government services. It is a proof that the person bearing the Certificate is a Domicile/Resident of the State/Union Territory.
To add to the fluidity of the whole process, it was perfectly okay if I didn't have any of the above three documents. I was given a form that I could fill in. I had to put it onto a stamp paper with a sign from the magistrate. Thats it and I am a citizen of India to enjoy all rights of a citizen!
With these accepted procedures, do we really know our citizens? For a better understanding of its citizen, and optimum utilization of tax income for the citizenry in terms of education, employment, medical facilities, social security etc, it is absolutely essential to have an unique identification document or number for each of the citizens. This document should also be mandatory to avail of any citizenship rights.
This document can not only be used for identification but also for tracking every public service that one uses. It can also be used to make family trees and progression of a culture/community. It can act as a deterrent for foreigners to settle in India.
Today, the cultural fabric of Assam, for instance is endangered because of the continuous immigration of the poor Bangladeshi population. It is very easy for a Bangladeshi family to claim Indian citizenship by being in Assam for a few months. One of the various ways is to get caught in a minor theft cause. Once there is police history, voters ID card comes next. Voter ID as we can guess, is a political instrument, which can bring in political corruption. It can one of the cheapest tactics of vote-bank politics.
The Aadhaar project of the Government of India seems to be the saviour, but it has many weaknesses. The pros are:
- It intends to deliver unique identification numbers (12 digits) to every resident including the homeless and transgender. It is been interestingly popularized as ‘Aam Aadmi Ka Adhikaar’.
- Even if people do not have required documents, they can apply for Aadhaar card. Individuals who already have an Aadhaar card can introduce residents who do not have any documents to establish identity.
- It aims to facilitate easy verification, availing of Government or Private services, help welfare programmes reach intended beneficiaries and for serving as basis for e-Governance.
- There would be rare duplication, as it is linked to demographics and biometric information - photo, 10 fingerprints and iris.
- It is free of cost and the Government of India is bearing the total cost.
However, the biggest loophole is that it is being promoted as a voluntary scheme. It is not mandatory to get yourself registered for the UID. Secondly, it is not a proof of citizenship but is meant for all residents of India. This brings our argument to square one.
It is high time that the Aadhar project is made mandatory so that India can plan for equitable distribution of wealth, education, employment, medical facilities and social security procedures.