From the Editor-in-Chief: The national ID fiasco

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, January 21st, 2016
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The hue and cry of late over mistakes spotted in citizens’ national ID cards raises all sorts of questions. A very fundamental one is one of why acts of good intent are often reduced to a farce, or something close to it, in this country. There can be little question that NIDs have today become a matter of critical importance for Bangladesh’s citizens. It may well be that an absence of an NID will leave a citizen unable in future to do anything in terms of travelling, banking, employment and a host of other things. It is therefore reasonable to suggest that those responsible for putting into the NIDs the data regarding those applying for these NIDs will do the job meticulously and efficiently. In thousands of instances, as it now appears, that work has not been done properly. Agitated civil servants and other citizens have questioned the NID Wing’s performance, forcing the department into defensive mode. The chief of the NID Wing has claimed that his department cannot be held solely responsible for the fiasco. He argues that many of those who have brought allegations against the NID Wing, particularly government servants, perhaps supplied wrong information earlier which they now conveniently wish to see amended.

 

One cannot be fully dismissive of the NID Wing chief’s arguments. With the announcement of the new national pay scale, there has been a clear rush by government officials and employees to have the mistakes, as they call them, corrected on their NIDs. And NIDs, by the way, are a significant factor in the determination of seniority in service as well as salaries. Some officers have admitted not noticing the lapses on their NIDs earlier. That said, one still needs to ask the question: how is it that such a large number of government employees did not spot the mistakes on their NIDs earlier and why did they not acquaint the authorities earlier on the issue? These are questions which must call for answers, but they ought not to be any excuse for the data processing officers at the NID Wing to claim innocence. All over the country, there have been regular complaints of names being misspelt or half spelt, of photographs not reflecting the proper images of NID card holders, of dates of birth being wrongly mentioned, et cetera. Therefore, to suggest that every citizen who went for his NID card submitted wrong information about himself is an untenable argument.

 

The authorities ought to institute a detailed inquiry into the problem. They must probe the circumstances which led to this scandal and why correcting the errors on NIDs has been taking such an inordinately long time. The quality and efficiency of officers and employees responsible for entering citizens’ personal data into NIDs must also be looked into. Again, an inquiry must be initiated into whether government officers and employees on their own and deliberately provided wrong or false information about themselves on their NIDs, which they now wish to change without admitting their own faults. If any government officer or employee has provided false personal details for his NID, he must be duly penalized.

 

We expect the issue to be resolved soon, in the interest of our citizens.

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