Jul 24, 2009

Nilekani starts work on unique identity for every Indian

New Delhi (IANS): Nandan Nilekani took charge as the chairman of the Unique Identification Database Authority of India Thursday and started work on the government's ambitious project to provide a single identity number and card to each of the country's 1.17 billion people.

Mr. Nilekani, who met with reporters briefly after assuming office at Yojana Bhavan, the headquarters of the Planning Commission here, said the main task of the authority would be to create a database that will help in issuing unique identity cards.

“This will be a nationwide system of authentication,” said the 54-year-old co-founder of Infosys Technologies, who was personally selected by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to head the project with the rank of a cabinet minister.

“Identity is important for everyone, especially for the poor. Getting an identity is a tough job. We will provide a database of residents. We will have a very simple database in biometrics. We will only have very basic information,” he said.

Mr. Nilekani said that the authority will not issue the biometric cards itself -- but the database it is creating will help government agencies to undertake that task.

The main purpose of the project, he said, was to avert the need for multiple proofs of identity for citizens while availing any government service, or for private needs like opening bank accounts or seeking telephone connections.

It is also expected to enhance national security by helping to identify illegal aliens.
Mr. Nilekani has already met Communications and Information Technology Minister A. Raja and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, seeking their support for the project.

Over the next few weeks, he intends to create the requisite administrative infrastructure to deal with the ambitious project. “We will pick up talent from both government and outside. We will also have biometric experts and others for security and identity management,” he said.

Jul 23, 2009

Forced Conversions to Hinduism

Forced Conversions to Hinduism
-Mahavir Sanglikar

Hinduism is being forced on the followers of Non-Vedic religions like Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. The people forcing it do not tell you to go to Hindu temples or perform rituals, but they just change your religious identity. They write your religion as Hindu wherever possible.

All this starts right from the admission of the pregnant woman to the maternity home. When the registration process goes on, the clerk writes her religion as Hindu, without asking her or her relatives accompanying her. For these clerks, if the woman is not a Muslim or Christian, then she is a Hindu. After the birth of the child, the doctor issues a birth certificate mentioning the child’s religion as a Hindu. For the parents, the religion is not important at that time as they are in heaven. They do not take pain even for reading it. But thereafter, whenever they see the birth certificate, they find that their child is converted to Hinduism.

Same thing happens in the school while the admission of the child. The parents do not know that here also their child is growing as a Hindu. They realize it only when the student gets a ‘School Leaving Certificate’ from the school. It mentions the religion of the student as Hindu-Sikh or Hindu-Punjabi in case of Sikhs, Hindu-Jain in case of Jains and Hindu-Buddhist in case of Buddhists. Sometimes it mentions just ‘Hindu’. So the School Leaving Certificate is actually Certificate of Religious Conversion to Hinduism.

The most stupid thing in these School Leaving Certificates is that there is no standardized format for it. One school mentions ‘Religion and caste’, other mentions ‘Race and religion’, another mentions ‘Race and caste’. Who knows about race? But many schools have a ‘Race’ column on the leaving certificate. It is there because it was there while British rule. Change is not acceptable.

Now let us speak about the census. On every tenth year, the Census Commission of India counts the people of India. The Census form mentions 7 religions namely Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jain, Buddhist and Parsi. The followers of other religions are counted under ‘Other’ column. But while census, the data collectors do the same thing what the clerks in hospitals do. They do not ask religion at all. For them all those are Hindus if their name is not a Muslim or Christian name. This happens not just because of lack of knowledge. It is being done systematically by the Hindutwa minded people working as Census Data Collectors.

The population of Hindus in India is about 79%. It is because of the forced Hinduism. We can not know the actual population of Jains, Buddists, Sikhs in India. We can not know the actual population of Adivasis and Nomadic tribes, who are not Hindus but they are counted as Hindus.

Mahavir Sanglikar is a scholar of socio-religious history, blogger and a freelance writer. You can meet him at:

Jul 21, 2009

NGOs work to include nomadic tribes in 2011 census

Sarang Dastane

PUNE: Despite being Indian citizens by birth, nomadic and denotified communities in the country do not have any constitutional rights. But all this may change with the 2011 population census as a city-based NGO is trying to spread awareness among tribe members of the benefits of joining the "mainstream".

A large section of these communities has remained out of census list for last 60 years as they are not registered as primary residents. However, if all goes as planned, the nomadic and denotified communities of the state may enrol their names in the population census after the 1931 census.
City-based NGO ECONET took a step ahead in this regard on Saturday when it conducted a workshop for representatives of nomadic and denotified communities. The workshop was organised to guide these communities towards making a conscious and well-informed decision and make them aware of the census procedures.

The workshop was organised jointly by the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics and ECONET.

"Representatives from as many as 12 districts of the state participated in the workshop and will now educate the members of their respective communities. We hope that such workshops will help these communities become a part of the mainstream and enable them to enjoy their constitutional rights," said Krishna Srinivasan of ECONET.

Elaborating on the need for the members of these communities to enrol themselves as primary residents, Krishna said, "Nomadic and denotified communities have been facing peculiar problems because they are not a part of the census and hence have no identity cards or citizenship rights. They have no ration cards, voters' identity cards and caste certificates. Also, the NT-DNT communities are not included in our constitutional schedules. Therefore, we, and various other NGOs and forums, are working towards ensuring that all these communities enrol for the 2011 census." He added that the participating community members have been briefed to give proper information about their mother tongue at the time of census. "This will help in identifying areas with nomadic and denotified tribes," he said.

"The last community-wise census of these tribes was done in 1931, and since then only projections have been used to arrive at an estimate of their population. There are 42-44 different nomadic tribes in Maharashtra, with a lot of diversity even within the community. These communities constitute 9 to 12 per cent of the state's population," added Krishna.
An official from the census department said, "We request people to remain present at their houses during the census time period. It will be difficult for the officials to register people, if they remain absent from their homes."

The word Nomadic Tribes refers to the people, who were forced to live a wandering life by the Indian Caste System. The Nomadic and Denotified Tribes constitutes of about 60 million in India, out of which about five million lives in Maharashtra. There are 313 Nomadic Tribes and 198 Denotified Tribes.

Tribals Demand for Adivasi Religion Code in Census

Ranchi, July 17:

Tribals, who have so far been counted as Hindus in the census, have united to press the Centre for an Adivasi Religion Code.

They have threatened non co-operation with census survey, conducted by the Centre after every two years, if their demand is not met.

Under the leadership of tribal ideologue and former vice-chancellor of Ranchi University Ram Dayal Munda, tribal organisations of the state had held several meetings with their counterparts in the northeast to come to a consensus that could describe their religious practice. They have decided to name their religion Adivasi Dharam.

They have decided to stage a demonstration in front of Raj Bhavan on July 21 and a similar dharna near Parliament in New Delhi on July 29.

“Not only the tribals of the state but across the country have joined hands demanding a separate column for us in the census. When Christians, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs, whose individual population in the country is not more than 2.5 crore, have different columns in the census then tribals with over 10 crore population deserve a separate identity,” said Deo Kumar Dhan, the co-ordinator of Jharkhand Paharaja Mahasamiti. Hitherto, the tribals have been counted under the Hindu column.

“We have been asking for it for the past three years,” said Shiva Kachchap, the vice president of Ranchi Mahanagar Prarthana Sabha.

He said the tribals could not be counted in the Census as Hindus as had been done by the government in last decades because they follow a different religion from the Hindus.