Friday, August 28, 2020

Multiple IDs are a tax on Indians

 It takes a lot to be triggered these days. But what triggered a thought was this new panacea of the Heath ID. Which led me to the tweet: Why do we need a Health ID? Why can't we use any of the existing IDs?

Multiplicity of IDs is leading to the creation of quasi private bureaucracies. All of which will charge some fee or the other to justify their existence.

These ids have various expiry dates and need to be kept up-to-date and as such are a tax (both monetary & otherwise) on Indians.

Which of course led me to try and list down the number of IDs we may need as Indians to operate in this country. 

Turns out, by my count Indians need 10 ids to complete their day to day activities. Yes. 10. 

1) PAN or Permanent Account Number is issued by the Income Tax Department to keep track of your taxable dues. It is also used by lenders to keep a unified track of your credit score.  

2) Aadhaar is issued by the UIDAI (quite a mouthful.. eh?). it was touted variously as "an ID to end all ids". "An id for the undocumented". Ironically, it accepted any document as a base for registration. and the Indian state forced it down everyone's throat. The entire country was turned into a guinea pig to roll this out. Widespread fraud and data leakages forced UIDAI to iterate on the fly? why on the fly? Because not much deep thinking had gone behind it. So you got biometric lock, Virtual ids. The id was mandatory, yet not mandatory. Every tom, dick and harry started asking for this id. Yes, even your kirana wala (err PayTM verification wala).  Anyway, much has been written about this and it is pointless to go over this again (or maybe in another post). 

3) Passport - Issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, this is a global travel document. First created in 1414 in England, it became kind of mandatory in the aftermath of World War I. 1920 to be precise, by the League of Nations. It pretty much helped define citizenship. No getting around this one.  

4) VoterID - Issued by the Election Commission of India. It was introduced in 1993 and serves as an id that allows you to vote. Why a separate id for this? No clue. Why couldn't a ration card be used? No clue. Why couldn't any of the others be used? No clue.   

5) Driver's License - Issued by the Motor Vehicle department of your state, it was conceived in 1888 in Germany as an ad hoc permit and formalised in 1904 in the UK. This certifies that you are fit to drive a car. Given it's vintage and use by relatively affluent individuals, it is not too much of a burden then. Why do we continue with it till date is the more pertinent question. 

6) Ration Card - Issued by your respective state govt, it entitles you to purchase subsidised food. Again why can't this be merged with something else? No clue. Instead now there is a project to create a national ration card. Well done Indian bureaucracy. 

7) GST - Another central document. Your first thought maybe, wait I don't need this as an individual. Well. You do if you are consultant with an annual receivables of more than Rs 20, lakh. There are other advantages of this of course. But that is a post for another day.  Why can't the PAN suffice here? No clue. 

8) DIN - Issued by the Ministry of Company Affairs. if you happen to be the director of a company. You need this. Why can't your PAN suffice here? No clue.  

9) CKYC - Issued by CERSAI (another mouthful), this is to help you navigate the financial world. Say MFs, Credit Cards etc. but wait, isn't that what a PAN is supposed to do? Why do we have this as a separate document? No clue.  

10) PRAN - The latest entrant on the block This is an acronym for Permanent Retirement Account Number. Why do we need a separate PRAN and why can't a PAN suffice here? No clue. 

I doubt we are done yet. The health ID is next. Very soon we will have an education ID, a kitchen ID, and perhaps even a loo ID. I mean sky is the limit when it comes to the imagination of the Indian bureaucracy to create new ids. 

Mind you some ids have other variants depending on how poor or how privileged you are. For eg if you are extra-poor you get a special ration card (and some officious official trying out his graffiti skills by painting your house with "main gareeb hoon". If you are in the Govt you get a special passport (grey in colour), which allows you all sorts of privileges like skipping immigration lines etc etc. 

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