EDITORIAL: Unclear plan

The concerned authority must be clear about what constitutes vital information that it wants to include in National Identity Card

The distribution of National Identity Card (NIC) began from Panchthar district headquarters of Phidim on November 19. Minister of Home Affairs Ram Bahadur Thapa initiated the NIC distribution programme by handing over one to Bhagawati Devi Bhandari, 101, of Phidim. Bhandari became the first person to receive the NIC. National Identity Card Management Centre (NICMC) under the Home Ministry is overseeing the process. At the time of initiating the programme in Phidim, NICMC Director General Dipak Kafle had said they would distribute the NIC initially in 15 districts — Jhapa  and Sankhuwasabha of Province-1, Mahottari and Saptari of Province-2, Lalitpur, Chitwan and Rasuwa of Province-3, Tanahun and Syangja of Gandaki Province and Kanchanpur and Achham of the Sudoorpaschim Province — in  the current fiscal. The NICMC has set the target of distributing the card, also known as biometric card, to every citizen within five years. Initially, NICMC had collected details of 52,754 people from Panchthar and 3,500 government employees from Singha Durbar for distributing the card.

Earlier, the government had planned to distribute the NIC to 110,000 people in Panchthar and 7,000 government employees in Singha Durbar. But the NICMC could not distribute the cards as planned due to delay in processing the details collected from individuals. The government had decided to distribute the NIC to all citizens in December last year with a view to replacing existing Nepali citizenship certificate to be distributed from each of the district administration offices. Database of citizenship certificate has not been centralised, hence, the chances of tampering with the certificate are very high. Neighbouring countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have adopted a similar system to maintain the central database of their citizens. Once the NIC is distributed to all citizens eligible for citizenship certificate, the database is centralised and the government will have access to information of all citizens. Besides helping in controlling crimes and keeping tracks records of criminals it will also prevent people from changing their date of birth and other unchangeable details when they get duplicate copy from other districts.

But the plan of distributing the NIC to the targeted people in Panchthar has hit a snag due to delay in upgradation of required system in the centre. According to National ID Card Registration Department (NIDCRD), Panchthar Field Office, only 110 persons have received the card since it was launched. Initially the multi-purpose card was supposed to contain every detail of the card holder from education qualification to landownership to driving license. Details of education, landownership and driving license, for example, cannot be defined as “vital information” of a citizen as these are subject to change over time. Shivaraj Joshi, director at NIDCRD, himself has now admitted they could not include all details of the card holders due to delay in data processing. The department must be clear about what constitutes “vital information” that it wants to include in the NIC. Going by its own assertion, it seems the department needs to do a detailed homework before initiating the plan.

Roofs over heads

Around 1,000 houses for poor Dalit families in a village in Bara were to be built under the People’s Residence Programme (PRP) by October-November. But even one month after the deadline, the houses are yet to be completed. Eleven Dalit families at Sakhui of Kalaiya Sub-metropolis, Parans and Lamidanda of Jitpur Simara sub-metropolis had started constructing houses in June-July. They have just completed the foundation of the houses from the first instalment with Rs 83,000. They could not complete the houses after the authority concerned did not release the money on time.

The PRP is a government initiative under which the poor should be provided with houses. It’s utter lack of seriousness on the part of authorities that they have failed to release the required amount on time. An official at the Urban Development and Building Construction Department of Division Office, Parsa, though said each family would get Rs 332,500 in four instalments to build quake resistance house with two rooms, he would not say when. The authorities must release the money at the earliest to ensure that the poor have roofs over their heads.