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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2736

The I-Card Farce

By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features

Never before has anyone found a simpler solution to one of the biggest problems faced by a teeming city, such as the capital of India: its security. We have it on the authority of the Lt-Governor, Tejinder Khanna, supported by Delhi’s police Chief Y. S. Dadwal, that Delhi would be a considerably safer city if all those who come here or live here carried a photo identity card when they step out of their homes.

The move has quite naturally upset almost everyone in Delhi, from the ‘aam aadmi’ to the higher ups, including chief minister, Sheila Dixit. She has every reason to be angry because this could be yet another issue to damn her as the Congress (her party) nervously approaches the Delhi assembly poll. But one suspects that her fears on this account may be slightly exaggerated because her principal opponents, the leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, have not reacted with their usual ferocity against the L-G’s orders on ID card. It may be so because the BJP in its anxiety to rid Delhi of ‘Bangladeshis’ has been making some similar demands about ID cards for all. It is a different matter whether ID cards or whatever will really help stop illegal immigration from Bangladesh, especially when the border is so ‘porous’.

The legal fraternity and the human rights activists have their job cut out in fighting a move that curtails or denies certain fundamental freedoms. Knowing the ways of the police—the authority that will demand to see the ID cards—who would not believe that the order on the IDs would open for them yet another avenue for harassing ordinary citizens—and make more money from them.

The more knowledgeable are asking what about the national identity card project that is supposed to be implemented in Delhi and a few other cities. Perhaps, like many other government projects that one is decades away from implementation. But has the ID card order taken into consideration the fact that Delhi is among the few metros that attract thousands of people everyday from states near and far, most of them hoping to settle down in the city with a job. And most of them are also poor, often semi- or totally illiterate. They have probably never been able to get an identity card of any sort—unable to pay the bribe.

What about basic freedoms of the citizens? The states are an integral part of the union of India and inter-state movement is not akin to movement from one ‘country’ to another. Is it going to be a hassle moving to Delhi from other state, or even within Delhi? Do the hapless people without an ID card have to sit at home? How will the policy ‘verify’ the identity of a person without an ID card after taking him or her to the police station?

No matter how much people in authority deny it is an open secret that the really undesirable or anti-social persons, including terrorists, do not feel obstructed by fiats like the one of ID cards in Delhi. If the terrorists, for instance, can fake police and army ID cards they really need not worry about orders that demand people to carry an ID card all the time. It is not clear how the mere production of an ID card would lessen security threat to the city. No ID card will proclaim that it belongs to someone who is a menace to the society while a fugitive from law, with or without an ID, will obviously manage to stay away from the ‘questioning’ beat constable. Any how these musings are now dated since the I- card plan was shelved for the present.

Khanna, who was the Lt Governor of Delhi on an earlier occasion also, should be the man most admired by at least the Delhi drivers. Announcing the decision about compulsory carrying of ID cards, he said that the driving licences issued outside Delhi would have to be ‘validated’ in Delhi. The reason: he claimed that drivers with licences from other state have ‘different driving habits’ and ‘cannot drive well in the capital’!

Very well said, Sir. More people are killed on Delhi roads by rash drivers (presumably with licences issued by the transport authority in Delhi) than in any other Indian city. To be fair, this unique driving skill may not come only with the Delhi licence.

It is perhaps not Mr Khanna’s fault if he is actually not entirely familiar with the ways of the average drivers in Delhi—with Delhi licence. As a person who has had privileged jobs, often with a red beacon light fitted on his chauffer-driven car, his experience in moving around Delhi cannot be similar to that of others.

He probably has less implicit faith in the administration that he heads as the L-G of Delhi, or else he would have been aware of official statistics that show that a large number of drivers with a Delhi licence are a bestial lot. And one is not talking about the so-called Killer lines that are supposed to be phased out after they have enjoyed the freedom to kill people on the road for years. The ‘skill’ of Delhi drivers is manifest in the number of dented cars—more than 50 percent by conservative estimates---on the roads and increasing human loss due to erratic driving—road rage is one of the consequences of the latter. An average Delhi driver can drive his or her vehicle only with the help of the horn!

Then there is the minor question of corruption in the licensing office. The only thing that seems to matter in this office is the applicant’s willingness to offer bribe to some one in the licence issuing authority, not his or her driving skills. But why question the driving skills in Delhi when absolute bedlam rules the roads because of a variety of reasons, not the least of which is non-functioning traffic lights and the Delhi’ites' ignorance of basic rules and etiquettes of driving.

Actually, it is doubtful if even the licensing authorities care on these rules and, of course, it would be absolutely cruelty to expect the majority of Delhi drivers to be aware of the driving etiquettes where careful and cautious driving is considered effeminate. The holders of Delhi driving licence must thank the L-G for overlooking some of their sins: it will make the city safer.

- Syndicate Features -

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