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ID card proposal sparks political row

An order by the Indian capital's top official that all residents of the city need to equip themselves all the time with an identity card to show proof of residence has sparked a firestorm of protests.

delhi Updated: Jan 07, 2008 13:37 IST

An order by the Indian capital's top official that all residents of the city need to equip themselves all the time with an identity card to show proof of residence has sparked a firestorm of protests.

Lt Governor (LG) Tejendra Khanna's fiat says the directive will come into effect from January 15. Some police officials are all for it, saying it is one way to keep a check on terror suspects and undesirable elements from entering the city.

However, Delhi's Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is fuming that she was not consulted although it is she, as the top elected politician, who is accountable to the voters.

And in a country where rampant corruption can buy any card, many are wondering if Khanna's proposal is a sound way of keeping a tab on criminals and terrorists for whom Delhi is a happy hunting ground.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar called it an attempt to "turn Delhi into a police state" and a "sinister design to target people of Bihari origin". He even shot off a strong letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh against Khanna's decision.

"I suspect that failures on the police and intelligence fronts are being covered up in the name of security and there is an attempt to turn Delhi into a police state," Kumar said, adding, "No one can claim exclusive jurisdiction over Delhi".

Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) president JP Aggarwal termed the move as "deplorable" saying it would only lead to corruption and harassment of the citizens.

Aggarwal said most people residing in the capital are daily wagers, who live in slum clusters and resettlement colonies and most do not have photo identity cars or any other identity proof.

Demanding an immediate withdrawal of the new move PMS Grewal, state committee secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist), said: "It is a licence for harassment of ordinary citizens".

Delhi BJP chief Harsh Vardhan too slammed LG's decision. He said: "The whole idea to make identity proof compulsory is impractical and impossible to execute effectively.

"Nearly six million people living in Delhi come from other states like Bihar, UP, Punjab and Haryana. Many live in slum clusters and have no identity proof - so what will they all do?" he asked.

Delhi has a population of over 14 million. But only around six million people have been issued with electoral ID cards and 2-3 million have driving licences.

According to Khanna's directions, Delhi Police would begin random checks from January 15. Constables will be authorised to ask people to show any photo identity cards, including voter identity card, driving licence, passport, and college identity card with photo or photo ID cards issued by the firm they are employed with.

But some police officials aren't too happy with the move either as it would add to their workload, given the huge migrant population in the capital with no identity cards.

A senior police official said: "Obtaining fake documents, getting ration cards, fake driving licences is just few bucks away. The capital is filled with hundreds of thousands of touts, who are endangering the security for a paltry amount. And they work in association with local cops.

"We do understand the need for more security, but the drive would remain fruitless unless taken with other serious and looming issues," he added.

Another police official said: "Now we will end up taking people to SDM (sub-divisional magistrate) offices as the majority of the migrant population doesn't have such proof. It would only increase our work. The government should first maintain a database of people living in the capital before enacting such laws."

Aslam Khan, a Uttar Pradesh migrant who operates a barber shop in west Delhi's Moti Nagar, expressed his fear: "I am running my barber shop for the past four years and don't have any identity proof. We never got such documentation done before, but now every one in my fraternity is very scared. What would we do if cops ask us for identity card?

"This has become a hot topic of discussion at my shop. We don't know what to do and whom to approach if cops begin harassing us," he said, criticising the government's new move.