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I-cards caught in handover hassle

New Delhi, July 10: The ground work for multi-purpose identity cards will be complete by August but the government might take as long as early next year to start issuing them.

The government has not made up its mind on what the multi-purpose card will look like. Officials believe the decision had been put on hold in view of the uncertainties that a change of government brings.

The home ministry had last year launched the pilot project across 13 states covering 30 lakh people. The aim was to create a national population register of Indian citizens and non-citizens. Both categories would be issued identity cards depending on their citizenship status.

Union home minister Shivraj Patil today dispelled fears that the United Progressive Alliance government would not be too keen to push the scheme started by his predecessor L.K. Advani. The government is “actively considering” issuing the cards to all citizens, Patil declared.

“Every person in the country will be provided national identity cards and given a unique national identity number,” he said.

However, the minister admitted that incomplete records of deaths and births could prove to be a hurdle. “The success of the project would depend on timely and complete updating of this register, which again partly depends on complete registration of births and deaths,” he said.

For instance, in Madhya Pradesh, about 39 per cent of the births in 2002 were registered. Bengal, on the other hand, has an almost 100 per cent record in registering births, but records only 60 per cent of deaths.

The ministry had expected to complete the pilot project by July, nine months after a team of government officials visited 13 states and Union territories — Bengal, Pondicherry, Goa, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh — to compile the population register. “But the early elections disturbed our schedule,” a census department official said.

“We are aiming to cover 80 per cent of the population in the designated areas and issue the ID cards by December-end or, more likely, early 2005,” an official said, adding that this would require the officials concerned to visit every village at least thrice.

This time, an official stressed, “it will not be like the voters’ ID cards… Before issuing the ID card, it will be shown to the person concerned who will certify that the details have been listed correctly, right down to his spelling”.

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