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Identity crisis

india Updated: Jan 08, 2008 22:56 IST

Hindustan Times
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There are some ideas that not only fly in the face of common sense but are also silly. We don’t quite know which gallery Delhi’s Lieutenant-Governor Tejendra Khanna was playing to last week when he announced the plan to introduce a rule that insists photo identity cards be carried by all in Delhi when they step out of their homes. But it seems that with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar calling the move a “direct interference in personal liberties” in a letter to the Prime Minister protesting against the proposal, Mr Khanna has made a u-turn. The hare-brained proposal, now thankfully junked, echoes another remark made by Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit last year about the growing influx of immigrants “from Bihar and UP” into Delhi that, in her mind, created a burden on Delhi’s infrastructure. One thing is certain: Mr Khanna’s plan to make Delhi a safer city started with the naive notion that ‘bad guys’ don’t carry identification papers. Surely, he knows that the first thing that a potential miscreant will get is the ‘right’ ID card. Then why the bright idea in the first place?

The plan was that anyone who looks ‘suspicious’ could be stopped by the police and if he was unable to produce a photo ID card, he would be taken to the sub-divisional magistrate’s office where he will be identified. The problem with this method was that a large percentage of Delhi’s population — that includes a large floating population of migrants — do not have ID cards. So with the new rule, we could have seen all those heading to the magistrate’s office. Not only would this mean extra work for the police, but if current practice is any indicator, the scheme would have made a new blackmarket-cum-harassment industry flourish.

Wherever Mr Khanna decides to take his idea next, the task should not be to find out the identity of suspicious characters in Delhi, but to stop and prevent those planning attacks in the city. The police should be more serious about basic safety procedures. It is not the ‘hassle’ of ID cards that we’re railing against. Delhi could do with its citizens being more ‘hassled’ if that means a safer city. But the scheme was always unworkable and silly. Mr Khanna should have known better.