National Database of birth and death: Amendments that are unnecessary

News: Government recently proposed creating a national database of registration system comprising births and deaths. This is proposed to be used to update every birth and death, and linked with other databases like the national population register, voter list and the Aadhaar database.

What is the current mechanism?

The current system is covered by the Registration of the births and deaths act, 1969(RBD Act). Under the RBD act, it is the responsibility of the states to register births and deaths. States have set up facilities for the same and a chief registrar is an executive authority for the implementation of the act. The registrar general of India is responsible for coordinating and unifying the implementation of the RBD Act.

This system enables citizens to easily obtain the required services, prevent fake registrations. It also includes some personal information like the child’s parents and the deceased.

What are the challenges in the newly proposed National Database of birth and death?

One should examine the need for each birth and death to be communicated to other databases. The population database may need the information instantaneously, but other databases like the voter’s list may need it only once in six months. For such databases, the information should not be collected from the birth and death databases.

There are other challenges like the address of the newborn may be different from the current or present address. This may require linkage with the Aadhaar number to verify across multiple databases. This can be done by amending section 8 of the act. However, this may be unnecessary as Aadhaar number can be included in the forms used for reporting births and deaths. And such directions have already been issued to the states.

Moreover, the information maintained for births and deaths by the states could still be manual in some cases. Also, extracting information from the state central level will lead to duplication of data without any value addition. Also, data maintained by various states may not follow the same structure.

Also read: Centre wants to keep birth, death database

There is a proposal that the national database would be used to update population register, passport database, Aadhaar database etc. These provisions are not required, as the law for each of these databases specifies the purposes for which the information can be used.

What should be done going forward?

The central government should prescribe standards for data items in the birth and death databases to be maintained by the state comments.

Activities relating to the registration of births and deaths have undergone huge changes due to computerization. However, the laws have not kept pace. There is a need for updating the laws to take care of present and future developments. The proposed law should address these concerns.

A bill for this purpose was introduced in Parliament in 2012 to amend the RBD act, but it lapsed. The Law commission examined the issue in its 270th report and called for amending the RBD act.

So the proposed amendment should take care of these concerns first.

Source: This post is based on the article “Amendments that are unnecessary” published in The Hindu on 11th January 2022.

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