Fortunately, better sense prevailed and Lieutenant Governor Tajendra Khanna'scontroversial orders have been laid to rest. These were issued in a huff without proper consultations and application of mind. Having attracted flack from political parties and an outraged citizenry, the LG backtracked saying he had not issued any orders making carrying of identity cards in Delhi mandatory. As usual, media was blamed for ?misrepresenting? his views. Khanna claimed that he had only talked about the desirability of carrying documents to establish one'sidentity in case of suspicion. There is no point in getting into arguments about who committed a mistake. Public knows what happened. LG now says that proof of one'sidentity would be demanded only during ?sensitive? occasions like Republic Day and festivals. The impugned orders were destined to die, as these were unimplementable. Further, these would have become tools in the hands of unscrupulous officials to harass and fleece people. A seasoned civil servant like Khanna should have known the harsh reality that a large section of population in the national capital has neither the voter ID card nor a ration card, what to talk of PAN card or a driving license. To expect every one of them to obtain one of these documents within 10 to 15 days amounted to throwing the hapless citizens to the wolves. The authorities concerned would have exploited the situation to demand ?fee? for expediting the work. The argument that carrying identity cards in Delhi was necessary to fight terrorism is only partly true. The scheme can be effective only if covers the entire country. Further, experience has shown that terrorists and those who harbour them have the means and godfathers to obtain voter identity cards and ration cards. Is it not a fact that most of illegal migrants from Bangladesh – many among them suspected of supporting jehad – have been provided with ration cards and voters identity cards by obliging politicians who look at them as their potential voters?
There was nothing conceptually wrong with the decisions announced by the LG. Nor is there any reason to doubt his sincerity and commitment. Perhaps his intention was to make the people more concerned about the threats to security in the national capital. However, the decision was flawed on more than one count. Firstly, there are more than enough laws that empower the police and other security agencies to question suspicious persons and to demand proof of their identity. What were required was not additional laws or regulations but better enforcement of existing laws and rules. Further, the impugned order would have provided yet another instrument to corrupt policemen to harass citizens. Women would have been the worst sufferers. Empowering law enforcement agencies to haul up anyone without a document to prove his identity and take him or her to a police station or a magistrate would be a gross violation of Right to Freedom of Movement. The order would have grievously hurt casual visitors to national capital. They would have been put to great inconvenience, as they would have been required to obtain identification documents before entering Delhi. Last but not the least, such an order would have provoked states to impose similar restrictions on citizens from other states entering their territory. This would have dangerous consequences for our national solidarity and territorial integrity.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar'sangry and insensitive response to the Governor? order has confirmed worst fears in this regard. In an obvious attempt to play on parochialism, Kumar made the ridiculous charge that the order was basically aimed at the people of Bihar.
Equally flawed was LG'syet another decision – since withdrawn – to require those holding driving licenses from other states to get them validated by the Delhi traffic police on the premise that those from outside Delhi have different driving habits.
Will people driving their cars into the national capital from say Jaipur or Chandigarh or even Panipat be asked to get their driving licenses validated? And what if other states pay Delhi back in the same coin. No Delhi citizen would be able to drive out of the city without getting his driving license validated from the state concerned. And if he were to travel through three states, he would be required to get his license validated by all the three state.
It would have made some sense if the LG had ordered that all those driving local buses and taxies would be asked to get their licenses validated by Delhi Traffic Police. Public outrage against LG'scontroversial decisions shouldn'tdivert attention from the need to issue multi-purpose national identity cards to each and every citizen that would lead to the creation of a computerised National Register of Citizen. Such a project was conceptualised by the then Union Home Minister L K Advani in the early years of the current century. The creation of a computerised register would enable government agencies to trace the identity of any person with a single click. Advani rightly thought that a national register of Indian citizens would act as a deterrent to illegal immigration. Maintenance of such a register would also help the authorities in identifying and isolating jehadis that keep sneaking into the country to spread terror. The project when implemented in full will be a credible identification system for citizens throughout the country. Other gains from the exercise will be improvement in quality of services provided to people living below poverty line and efficient and less time consuming transactions between individuals and service providers like banks, civic bodies and insurance companies. NDA Government commissioned a pilot project to issue 14 lakh multi purpose national identity cards in various parts of the country in the year 2003. Its implementation faced several technical and administrative hurdles. Authorities, however, claim that the pilot project would be completed in the next two to three months. These cards will contain personal information of every individual across 16 parameters, including photograph and finger biometrics. Hopefully, the Government would commission the ambitious scheme to create such a register in the light of the experience gained from the pilot project. Let it not be scuttled at the alter of minorityism.