Friday, August 9, 2013

In the quest for that Unique Identity



The last two days have been hectic! I am physically tiered ! Why you ask? I have been trying to get myself that unique identity ( so that I won’t be an “Unknown Indian” eh ?).

 Folks, I have been chasing the Aadhar Card.

It all started when the husband found an announcement in a local neighborhood newspaper. He made me stop grinding chutney at 7.00 AM as the daughter was threatening to leave her breakfast uneaten if the Idly was served without her green coriander chutney. I was trying to win the race against time so I could get it all ready before the school bus groaned to a halt outside our gate. But he insisted I pay attention. What was it I wondered , as I gave up on the race.

The announcement was about  the second phase registration for the Aadhar card in our Corporation Ward.  We were to take the slip which was given to us during the census registration sometime in 2009 and verify our names etc. Seemed fairly simple, except that the slip was not to be seen anywhere in our house! I was the prime suspect, given the fact that I carry within me the genes responsible for disposing off any piece of paper that I cannot immediately identify ( it comes from the X chromosome that my dear father has donated). 

So what next? I decided to go to the enrolment spot and find out. I was told that I should go to my corporation zonal office and get a token. A token for what?  No one was able to explain clearly ( or maybe it was just me who did not understand.. I have been known to have a feeble IQ).

I made my way to the zonal office. As I approached the spot, I wondered if there was a riot in progress. I mean, after the formation of Telangana, various regions have been asking for their own states. May be Chennai was seeking independent status I thought as I made my way past a policeman swinging a lathi! I squeezed through crowds and reached a spot where they were handing out something! Typical Indian that I am, I did not want to miss out on anything free. So I also made a scramble for it and after being nearly crushed to death by a lady four times my size, managed to grab a slip of paper which had a rubber stamp on it. What was I supposed to do with it? I approached a smart looking policewoman who reminded me of Vijyashanti in her various IPS roles. Though the look alike was only a constable, she was equally helpful. She told me that I was to await a newspaper announcement after which I would have to register my family details by producing this chit. I stored this paper carefully ,putting  it into the safe along with my jewelry!  I did not want to be accused a second time of losing important pieces of documentation.

Restless soul that I am, I decided to again look for the paper given during census. And voila! I found it! Shridi Saibaba had been the custodian. He had preserved it safely inside a book about his life and times ( I must write to the Sai Trust at Shridi and see if they will register this as a miracle!) Anyway, I made my way to the Aadhar registration centre again and joined the enquiry queue. A volunteer looking amazingly like Mohnish Behl took the slip and traced our family data ( inclusive of my late mother in law , her nurse and our live in maid). He told me to come the next day at around 8.00 AM and collect an appointment token. 

The next day, I sacrificed my morning walk for that token. I sent the spouse and daughter to office and school respectively and rushed in at 7.30AM! A serpentine queue was already in place.  As I joined it, I was told by 8.00AM that as they would not be issuing anymore tokens for the day. Why? Apparently, they do 120 entries per day and there was a back log of 45 from the previous day and were issuing only 75 tokens. I was no 90 in the queue and hence had to go back home.

The next day, not to be outdone, we set the alarm at 4.30 AM and the husband was dispatched to join the queue at 5.30AM. I won my usual race against time and went looking for him in that crowd. He handed me a pink slip with no 31 written on it. Apparently, the token system had been abolished starting that day, as some “concerned citizen” had complained to “higher authorities’ saying that it should be on “first come first served basis”! However the people there  had agreed to issue tokens among themselves so that there would be some order when the doors opened. The husband was very skeptical about this process. He wanted to leave. But  I was keen on giving it a try. So I took his place in the queue and the token.

It was 7.30 AM when I joined the queue. The door to the building was opened at 10.00AM and 50 people were allowed inside in the first batch. Thankfully, I was part of that batch.  But the scenario inside was  something else! Initially only computer system was functional and its operator was excruciatingly slow!! Thankfully by 11.00AM another system was installed and the process was speeded up a bit. An old couple in front of me looked faint with hypoglycemia. Some one called their home and their daughter in law rushed in with a jug of “Kanji” ( porridge) and two glasses. As she fed them she also instructed them on what to verify when the data was shown to them.  I liked her! She was smart, caring and practical. She left them with two bottles of water  wrote out her phone number and gave to two or three people sitting nearby to call should the old folks turn hypoglycemic again!

“ They should have a separate counter for senior citizens” I told the young man sitting next to me. “Aunty, that queue would be longer than the other queue then” said the boy with a grin. I looked around- yes, about 50% of the folks there were seniors! I had already finished reading the newspaper ( borrowed from the old man four places ahead of me in the queue) and had exhausted myself discussing the Indian education system with the young man on my left. The Mohnish Behl look alike was missing today. So there was no eye candy either! I counted my fingers, my toes and was just wondering if I should start with the hair on my head when it was finally my turn! My watch showed 12.00 noon!

After taking my photo, finger print and iris scan, I was asked to verify the information. I found all information wrong starting from my surname to my date of birth. I also found a unique problem in the software. My name could only be entered as Meera and in that case I would have to be entered as D/O of Sundararajan. There was no option to enter my name as Meera Sundararajan W/O  GM. The data entry operator was getting impatient- he wanted me to decide if I wished to be known as my father’s daughter or my husband’s wife. I chose the former. I was handed a print out and sent out. When I look at it now I find that the column on bank account was left blank. I am not sure if I should follow up and have it entered. But I dread going back to that place again.

The husband went this morning at 5.00AM. He triumphantly sent a text message from his spot “ Only two people before me. Sure this can be done by 11.00AM today. Send the daughter after breakfast to hold the place so I can come  home and eat”  The “two people in front of me” seemed rather suspicious. But then there was no time to reflect on such trivial matters as I started getting ready for that morning race. Just as the daughter was getting ready to go for the Aadhar registration centre, I found her father coming back. “ No Aadhar registration today. Holiday for Eid” he said. I could have told him that when he left in the morning. However there is nothing like experiential learning!

Tomorrow they are planning to join the queue again at 5.30 AM! I am already feeling tiered..

( On a more serious  note, I wonder why this mad scramble? Is it because the enrollment process is on only for 2 months? Or is it because Chennai is more crazy about enrolling itself in any government data base? People in other states are refusing to believe these incidents I keep mentioning about!)

10 comments:

SG said...

Sorry you have to go through such an ordeal. Pardon my ignorance. Can you tell me why you need aadhar card? Is it something like PIN card? Thanks.

KParthasarathi said...

It is all madness at its hieght.They system is soantiquated,the queues,the dfective computers atleat one or absentee operator,none to supervise.There must be easier and better way of doing through all nationalised banks.We got the registration done three months back and had the pictures taken.We haven't heard since.
There is no exaggeration in your writeup and I can vouchsafe for it.

Meera Sundararajan said...

SG the Aadhar card is a Unique Id system like the US social security card. It is supposed to replace every other ID card in a period of time. The PAN ( not PIN) is for financial transactions and filing your returns. While it is mandatory for those who file IT returns it was not so for the others. But now I find that it can also be issued for others. The PAN card does not have details like your DoB, address etc. There are rumors that the passport application would soon require a copy of the Aadhar card to be enclosed. Already, cooking gas subsidy is going to be linked to this card.

Meera Sundararajan said...

KP, my father who lives in Hyderabad tells me that it took about a year after registration for their card to reach to reach them. However they did not have to go through this craziness. They were allotted a date and time for the registration and the entire process took twenty minutes for both of them ( exclusive of travel time to the venue and back). The chaos here has been created by a feeling of panic that the enrollment may be stopped anytime! Like you say, all banks can be asked to take in the information. It does not have to be made time bound submission of data.

Cloud Nine said...

Dear God...the entire system sucks. We were in the same queue for almost 5 hours- complete with my 7 year old and 9 year old kids. Horrible experience...

anilkurup said...

Perhaps I would be better placed without an official certificate of my being, existence!

The irony is an INFOSYS wizz kid is heading the UIN
allotment of the Union govt >>>> !

SuKupedia ™ :) :) said...

no no this is not the situation only in Chennai.. you should have seen pune.. I almost thought like you were describing their experience.. but you know so many people have shared their experiences like this about aadhar card... I really feel a little shy to say that we had a very good experience...
We got to know that the registration was in a nearby govt school so we just went there stood in line, as usual tokens were given, got in and gave our details... And I think within 60 days we all got our aadhar cards... with 'Our own names' on it :D :D

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Sukupedia, you are one of those lucky souls!

@ Anil, exactly my thoughts. I was just thinking if India were to vote in a smooth talking right wing dictator then this very same information that we have scrambled to provide might be used against us - like Hitler did with the Jews- people like us who come from religiously diverse families would be the first targets!!

@ Cloud Nine, hats off to you -managing two kids and standing in line for 5 hours!!

Jothi vel Moorthy said...

I could rather term it as a major disaster which is happening only in india. No where in the world such a huge database of one's privacy has been stored on a public domain. The unfortunate thing is none of us bother about this.. Lack of awareness too.. More than that we bother about the few hundreds we can save during the refill of gas cylinders...

Rhapsody said...

Namaste....
wow
I am tired with you. What a process!

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