Upgrading of Indian forms
It is more than 60 years since India became a secular democratic republic. However, Indians still have not got over the basic operating structures that were laid out by the British to help India on its own feet at the initial stages. Even the erstwhile British have changed its entire operating structures that existed around the world war days.
The advent of internet and globalization and its standardization has brought into focus the glaring inadequacies of the basic workings and methodology of the Indian government. The completely out-dated method of paperwork has become a bone of contention to all. Hence, it is not only environmentally illegal but ethically not sound to keep up with the century old method of paperwork.
The world has moved and so has India; including the society and businesses. Indian government is being a complete daft over such minor issues that without realizing has huge ramifications in the ever-changing society. The standard form filling format has not been changed over more than a century. The focus on its patiatrical system of gathering individual information is not followed by any other country in the world. India needs a new template that is followed not only for governmental paperwork but that also which is a basis for other institutions and organizations to create their form filling formats.
The questions on standard forms need to be overhauled completely. Some questions need to be removed, added or tweaked to catch-up with the international norms and standards. After all we are not isolated but part of the global world that moves ahead and keeps up with the changes. To understand what really should go in a form is to realize that the government or whoever is asking for individual information is based on the identity of that living person. The focus of the form is not to gather ancestral history unless it is a matter of inheritance that can be covered in additional forms. There is also a need to be sensitive and respect the citizens of the country and not go into a denial mode. In terms of specifying a gender, there should be three options, rather than two and where it is not concerned questions like age, gender and religion or caste should be avoided.
What should a normal standard form should consist?
1. The first and last name of the person. No need for a middle name unless the first name is divided into two.
2. Gender: Male; Female or Other.
3. Age / birthdate and in some cases the place of birth.
4. Permanent address if any.
5. Current address.
6. Contact details; such as; telephone and cellular numbers, email address, etc. In some cases online profile or personal websites as well.
7. Spouse name and contact details.
8. Parent (s) or guardians name and contact details. This question will pertain only to those individual filling forms that are clearly under age.
9. Bio-metric or facial information to identify an individual. This information can change with time and should be incorporated periodically. This information should be optional.
These are some simple but standard questions the forms should include. Asking for religion or caste is morally wrong and so is asking for fathers or husband’s name, which only stokes the fires of false belief that an individual, specially a woman belongs to a male who is either a father or a husband. It also discourages children of single parent or who are orphans and denying them of rightful place in the society.
Insisting on fathers or a husbands name has no validity as in case of emergency it is the spouse who is contacted first or parent or other family members in case of a single person. The family contact details should be asked for only in case of emergency alerts. In case there is no family then contact details of reference or friends can be furnished. Questions pertaining to marital status should also be avoided. Does it make any difference other than under inheritance laws whether the person is married, single, or other? It is rather a private matter.
Another almost out-dated method is to address a person with a tag or a title to identify the individual. Titles were abolished decades back and the focus was on individuality and not the gender or their legacy. Can’t we simply address a person by the first name? Why do we stick to titles despite it being abolished as in royalty and such formalities way back in 70’s? This fuels the importance of a family name and its legacy rather than encouraging each individual’s abilities and standing.
No government agency or private should deny an individual of its right to utilize or access its facilities in case there is some sort of inability to provide all information. The main motive should be to verify the citizenship of the person and their bio-metrics.
Focusing on address, family names and caste serves absolutely no purpose other than at religious institution who have their specific norms. Even under economic, civil or criminal cases, one cannot automatically assume that the information provided is always correct and accurate. Under natural and man-made calamities, personal information is liable to change without any notice. Instead of harping on residential proofs, etc., it is best to focus on other tracking means such as bio-metrics. Even without fancy gadgets, one can gather simple finger prints, blood group, etc., as information.
Family history is gathered only under specific cases such as, medical history, cases related to inheritance and so on. Caste should be asked only when joining religious organizations in private. Question of disability should also be asked only under strict and special circumstances and as an option. A person should be at any given time not be forced upon any questions other than fundamental questions to furnish the details, unless, it is pertaining to a specific cause and marked as additional informational details or as options.
The purpose of the unique identification number in India is to do away with all these individual proofs but so was a PAN card meant just for that and so was a passport and a voters’ card. Unfortunately, with every individual form of identification, things have ballooned to an extend that every small and big organization, company and others are asking for tonnes of various proofs even for something as small as buying a small product. The paper-work involved in photo copies and stamping on those to prove them true certified copies is a big business in itself. The worst fall-out unfortunately is that it is completely environmentally illegal. Due to sever wastage of papers and inks, including wastage of space to hold on to these documents.
Tweaking changes and being more sensitive in asking for details at micro level will go a long way in improving relations and acceptance amongst citizens at macro level. Let us change along with the world and not go back to times that do not exist any longer. Let us not focus on norms, culture and traditions only. They are part of a society’s fabric but so is the moral, ethical and individual rights and privacy.
- Dhara Kothari