Thursday, September 08, 2011

Identity for India's Poor

Take a second to sit back and think about how proof of our identity plays a major part in our everyday lives. Without one, we cannot attend schools, open up a bank account, learn how to drive, get passports and IDs to travel between borders, have access to welfare and medicaid programs. Even obtaining a bus pass requires identification.

Recently, India has launched a program to begin identifying every one of its 1.2 billion citizens. The major goal of this project is to decrease inequality, especially in villages where the average person is nameless and faceless to the government at large. Software mogul, Nandan M. Nilekani, believes that the new system will be like a road, a "road that in some sense connects everyone to the state."

400 million people in India live in poverty. While resources are plentiful, organizations in India fail to give them to those in need in an effective way. In the end, many of these resources are then sold to private companies. With the new technology, the problems of allocation of resources and goods could be solved. People living in villages will not have to depend on local officials but instead, can obtain help directly from the state. In addition, by electronically verifying and keeping identification in a database, corrupt governmental officials will no longer be able to steal their citizens' benefits.

Obtaining identification from every citizen in India will not be an easy task to undertake but it will open many doors to those who could benefit having an ID to take out loans, obtain an education, receive medical treatment, and collect food rations.

Citizens are positive. A rickshaw driver who was previously anonymous in the eyes of the government will soon be receiving his ID in the mail. "It will show that I am a human being, that I'm alive, that I live on this planet. It will prove I am an Indian," he said.

-Chelsey Dambro

Source: The New York Times