The Government recently stated that people are allowed to submit any documents with any information about the date and place of birth to prove their citizenship for the National Register of Citizens. When they said this, they were talking directly about birth certificates. It makes sense and should make the entire process easier since applying for and receiving a birth certificate is a right of every person born in India, which implies that everyone should have one.
Unfortunately, however, a large number of Indians, especially older citizens, do not possess birth certificates, accordion to an analysis. Many people born before 2005 have a lesser likelihood of having a birth certificate, although it is the first evidence of a person’s legal identity. However, there has been a significant improvement in the registration rates in recent years, according to a report. The main reason is that paperwork was not always as valued as it is today, which is turning into quite an issue today.
Although birth certificates are made mandatory, even now there are a lot of people without them. Three in five, that’s about 62.3% of children, under the age of five have registered births and birth certificates and have a birth certificate according to National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) conducted in 2015-16 which is a significant improvement from the 26.9% about a decade before in 2005-06.
Children belonging to the poorest sections of society such as the scheduled castes and tribes, and families with no formal education are more likely to not have a birth certificate since they might not have understood the value of one. There are other reasons as well that they might not have had the birth of their child in a hospital, which meant that there would be no proper record or information. Finally, most people did not see direct importance in applying for and receiving a birth certificate but felt that they could apply for one and collect it whenever they needed one.
Although this is true, the process dictates that applicants should apply for and receive one within 21 days from the birth of the child. If they have not handled the process, they can do it at a later stage but the challenge would be providing the additional documentation and paying a slightly higher registration fee.
Currently, India does not have every birth and death registered. States with poor infrastructure when it comes to registering infant deaths also have a significantly higher infant mortality rate. Across the country, children without birth certificates, quite commonly the marginalised, face challenges getting admitted to private schools despite the Right To Education Act specifying that they do not need documents for school admission.
With this being the case, imagine how difficult it would be to link birth certificate to prove someone’s citizenship will probably be a nightmare.
According to a UNICEF report published in 2019, India is among the five countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Pakistan that houses half of the world’s 166 million children whose births have not been registered. In India, nearly 24 million children under five did not have their births registered in the last five years, they estimated further.