An ordinary man’s life with documents for every occasion and every status update
An old friend of mine recently told me that he needs to buy a larger trunk since there was no place in his ancestral trunk to keep his “important documents” any more. I also agree with him and will soon need to consider such an investment myself because my wife too is complaining of the drawer running out of space. As per my calculation, a Local Sikkimese needs to possess more than 14 documents to get by reasonably without too many bureaucratic hiccups holding up his files and applications. Now I would like to explain this situation in detail.When a child is born, he needs an immunization card prepared on the very first day itself. Within 21 days he will be the owner of one of the more important documents – the Birth Certificate attesting that he has been born;-) As he reaches the age of three, he will start coming back with his School annual report cards along with several other certificates - painting, drawing, handwriting, singing, dancing etc. Among these, Class X, Class XII and above level qualification certificates will decide his luck as to whether he can become a Government servant or remain unemployed.
As he reaches the age of 18, he must become the owner of the Most Important Document in Sikkim - Certificate of Identification. With this he must enroll his name in the voter list to become a voting citizen of India and thereby get to own a voter identity card. These two documents will be followed by another document ‘Employment Card’, which is mandatory for those seeking Government job. And crossing 18 means he is eligible to drive and can opt to procure a driving license.
If he is fortunate enough to land a Government job, several other documents, starting with the appointment letter, Insurance papers, CPF documents etc. will be added in his trunk. He could get married by then, and another document- Marriage Certificate alongwith his wife’s documents will join his so far acquired documents in the trunk.
If not employed in the Government, to earn a livelihood, he will need to either become a contractor, after procuring an Enlistment paper, or a businessman owning a trade license.
After marriage, he should own an LPG connection for which he needs an Aadhar Card to begin with. Bank account is now compulsory so he must have bank pass book and ATM card in addition. Ration Card is mandatory to burn the gas stoves. If he has ancestral land, it has to be transferred in his name and he will possess a land parcha. He should construct a house for which he should have the blueprint done. And after becoming a father the cycle repeats again!
Besides these, Job Card, post office account, health card, electricity bill, Kishan Credit Card, vehicle documents etc. also add bulk to the trunk.
One can calculate the volume of the above-mentioned documents to be substantial for a family of four family members and the pressure to keep these in order, updated and safe.
We are living in a modern world of advanced technologies and refined applications [okay, apps]. The society we are living in prefers smart-phones, but when it comes to documents and ‘papers’, we are still stuck in an analog world. Perhaps the time has come for policy-makers and implementing agencies to work towards a smart ‘document’ regime in which the current plethora of documents get compacted into a smaller, more manageable and intelligent single smart-card.
In their defence, policy makers have tried in the past to simplify the management of documents but implementing agencies have failed. For example, the Motor Vehicles Department once started issuing smartcard driving licenses but the DLs have reverted to the old laminated paper format. Several Government projects like opening of bank accounts in the name of housewives with the government having deposited Rs. 1,000 balance failed as the smart card reader machines and the implementing agencies failed to deliver.
That said, everyone would love a scenario in which we had a single card which could be updated on a regular basis as required instead of acquiring a new document every time we acquired a new ‘qualification’ or ‘status’. But that is still not the case because we are burdened with simply too many documents, so many in fact that people tend to routine lose some of them everytime they travel with them, as is proven by the number of lost notices advertised on a routine basis in local newspapers. The classified notices section in the newspapers never misses the lost column, especially the one notifying lost documents.