Peeking out of your pocket

India's national ID scheme is 'on schedule'.

In a quiet office off of Mansingh Road in New Delhi, a small team is working on a secret project. If successful, this plan will transform India from a 'soft state', open to all sorts of Subcontinental contamination, into a hard, impenetrable fortress – safe, sure and secure. The mild-mannered men seated behind large, untidy tables at the Office of the Registrar General of India patiently explain that the project is not exactly secret – it's just that only the Home Secretary is authorised to speak on the subject, and he rarely does. They can only confirm what is already in the public domain: the Multipurpose National Identity Card (MNIC) project is on schedule; the pilot project has been initiated; and the first cards are to be issued by April 2006. The entire system is state-of-the-art – a symbol of India's prowess in information technology and the perfect weapon to battle corruption, inefficiency, infiltration, terrorism, treason and sedition.

The first time anyone spoke about a national identification system was in 1992, when the right-wing Sangh Parivar and its allied organisations staged protests against the influx of Bangladeshi immigrants into the states of Assam, Bengal, Delhi and Maharashtra. Arguing that the migration of the primarily Muslim Bangladeshis was altering the demographic profile of the country as a whole, they took every opportunity to air their xenophobic slogan, Infiltrators, Quit India. In response, the Central Government launched Operation Pushback, with the expressed purpose of deporting Bangladeshi immigrants from the capital region. At the time, a major practical problem was the identification and enumeration of the immigrants. A meeting was called between the chief ministers of the states on India's eastern frontier, which passed a resolution to issue identity cards to all citizens in border districts. The government, however, failed to execute the proposal.

Loading content, please wait...
Himal Southasian