The previous part of the article can be accessed here. This is part 2.
The Allahabad birth certificate had a date of birth which was different from that in Delhi birth registration
In the opening episode of this series on the large scale birth registration fraud we looked at some introductory information on the birth registration mechanism in India, and its loopholes. In this episode, we will present some real examples and data to show how the loopholes are exploited to do fraudulent birth registrations and the scale of this fraud.
In early 2018, the author noticed that a birth certificate issued by the Allahabad Nagar Nigam (now Prayagraj Nagar Nigam) was used in Delhi. The person for whom that Allahabad birth certificate had been issued, was actually born in a Delhi hospital and that birth had already been registered by a Municipal Corporation in Delhi on getting the birth report by that Delhi hospital, well within the stipulated 21 days period. The Allahabad birth certificate had a date of birth which was different from that in Delhi birth registration, showed that the person was born in a house in Allahabad and that it was a case of delayed birth registration (delay of more than a year as explained in the previous episode).
Allahabad is one of the main cities in Uttar Pradesh and is not without healthcare infrastructure. Thus it cannot be true that only very few births happen in hospitals.
Fortunately, the birth registration data of Allahabad Nagar Nigam is available online at National Mission – Urban Local Bodies, and the author could go through it. What the author discovered was shocking – almost all births registered with Allahabad Nagar Nigam are cases of delayed birth registrations (greater than 1 year and hence on an SDM order) and the births are reported to have occurred at homes. Very few births are reported to have occurred in hospitals and have been registered within the stipulated 21 days period. Unbelievable for a city such as Allahabad!
For example, the day the above-mentioned birth was registered in Allahabad Nagar Nigam (where the person was actually born in a Delhi hospital), all the birth registrations are delayed birth registrations, and only 15 out of 103 registrations show place of birth in the hospital. The data is presented below (Figure 1). There are several cases where a parent got multiple births registered on that day, and in few such cases, the age gap between children is also low. Furthermore, there are some cases where the delay is inordinate and the parents were dead at the time of registration – one birth was registered after a delay of over 70 years! Yes, that alleged birth happened prior to India’s independence! The average delay in registration of birth from the claimed date of birth is about 9 years. Remember, that this is not issuing of certificates for existing registrations, but fresh registrations.
The Allahabad Nagar Nigam revamped their birth registration system around 2016 and this change was supposed to ensure better compliance with the laws and rules governing the birth registration. However, things remain quite bad. For example, we looked at all the registrations done on 28th August 2018. The data is below (Figure 2). Only 24 out of 85 births registered on that day were reported by hospitals and within the stipulated 21 days. One birth was reported at home and within 21 days. Remaining registrations are delayed birth registration and about half of the births are claimed to be at home. The average delay in registration of birth from the claimed date of birth is still about 5.5 years! We continue to see cases where a parent got multiple births registered together.
Just to make sure that this was not a single day anomaly we looked at random birth registrations. We could not find a single registration before 2016 that was reported within 21 days and had birth at the hospital – i.e. all the randomly searched registrations prior to 2016 were delayed registrations. Even post-2016, our random search rarely returned a registration that was done within 21 days and reported from a hospital. 15 such randomly checked registrations are collated in Figure 3.
Allahabad is one of the main cities in Uttar Pradesh and is not without healthcare infrastructure. Thus it cannot be true that only very few births happen in hospitals. There also seems to be no plausible explanation as to why births are not being reported within the stipulated 21 days period. So, we started chasing the Allahabad Nagar Nigam birth registration department which is headed by the Nagar Swasthya Adhikari. The department has been extremely evasive and it lends credence to the suspicion that there is something fishy. This is not a case of sporadic irregularities but seems to be a well-organized racket operating at a massive scale.
We had filed an RTI with the Allahabad Nagar Nigam seeking statistics pertaining to birth registration for an eight-year period spanning 2010-2017, such as births at home v/s hospital, births reported within 21 days, 21-30 days, 30 days to 1 year and after 1 year, with further splits of these time slabs for hospital and home births. The Allahabad Nagar Nigam did not even care to reply, even after filing the first appeal. They did provide a vague reply only after the applicant approached the State Information Commission with a complaint. In this reply, they vaguely mentioned that the software for birth registration was changed in 2016, and prior to that they had manual registrations, hence it is not possible to provide a complete response to the RTI. However, they did provide some data. Surprisingly, the data they provided is for years prior to 2016 only! And even that data is incomplete and appears unreliable. They have not provided the data pertaining to the delay in registration. In the limited data that they have provided, they have admitted that a vast majority of the births in Allahabad have been reported to be at home. The data provided by Allahabad Nagar Nigam is available below.
We chased Allahabad Nagar Nigam for specific cases and they were extremely evasive in that pursuit as well. As mentioned in the opening episode, delayed birth registration can only be done on an order by the Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) and the SDM can pass such an order after verifying the correctness of the reported birth. Further, Allahabad Nagar Nigam requires certain documents for proof of birth, identity, and residence along with an application for delayed birth registration.
Therefore, we filed an RTI with Allahabad Nagar Nigam asking what verification was done and documents supplied for a specific case of delayed birth registration. The Nagar Nigam merely replied stating that the birth registration was done as per the process and on the production of an SDM order, but did not provide replies to the queries in the RTI. We went into the first appeal to which the Nagar Nigar responded by stating that they had destroyed the records as per their weeding out policy.
This was utterly shocking! As per section 17(2) of Uttar Pradesh Registration of Birth and Death Rule, 2002 any order related to delayed registration should never be destroyed and is a permanent record. So as per the rules, the Nagar Nigam could not have destroyed the records. We again approached the State Information Commission with a complaint and the Nagar Nigam magically found the records that they had earlier claimed to have weeded out.
We discovered that such delayed birth registrations were ‘blindly’ done by the Allahabad Nagar Nigam on mere production of the SDM order and no other documents (such as proof of address, the correctness of birth or identity) were required to be annexed with the birth registration application. The SDM also passed the order on submission of a simple letter and an affidavit by the applicant stating that her child was born on a particular date and at home, and that she had forgotten to report the birth. That’s it – no other documents or proofs required! The public notary did not even verify the identity of the deponent. To top it up, the entire process including the production of the affidavit, application to the SDM, passing of the order by the SDM, submission of the application to the Allahabad Nagar Nigam, registering of the birth, and issuing of a birth certificate happened on the same date. Super quick! Obviously no verification could have happened.
We also filed an RTI with the concerned SDM seeking the submitted documents and the verification process, but the SDM’s office has not responded to date even after almost 10 months. We did get a call from the SDM’s office and were ‘unofficially’ informed that they don’t keep any record for such delayed birth registration orders and that it is the responsibility of the Nagar Nigam to do the verification. Allahabad Nagar Nigam, on its part, has passed the buck onto the SDM. This ping pong game has allowed this birth registration racket to flourish.
However, one thing is very clear – that if a fraudulent birth registration is discovered, then, as per law, the registrar (i.e. Allahabad Nagar Nigam) must cancel such registration. The Nagar Nigam has been very reluctant to do so and has relied on an excuse that doing so would mean going against the authority of the SDM. Bizzare! Overall, the concerned authorities have been least concerned to act against this large scale racket.
This problem is not localized to just Prayagraj, but pandemic across India. We will cover a few more cases in the subsequent episodes. The author has read in the news and also come across several cases of fraudulent birth registrations. We have gone through the data of some jurisdictions that have made their registration data available online. For example, Jaipur Nagar Nigam’s data has also revealed interesting stories, but we will skip the details in this episode. Do look at the statistics, though, that were provided by Jaipur Nagar Nigam in response to an RTI which we have presented in.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.