Birth date mismatch problem isn’t going away soon

Injina Panthi / March 5, 2018

While the controversy over the variations in the date of birth of Chief Justice Gopal Parajuli in his official documents has yet to be resolved, a new controversy started with the revelation that there are discrepancies in the date of birth of social activist Dr Govinda KC himself, who has been staging protest against the chief justice. This created quite a stir on social media and many social media users have admitted that there are inconsistencies in their dates of birth too.

A way to avoid such discrepancies is to effectively enforce vital events registration law. But in Nepal, although there is a Vital Event Registration System (VERS) in place it is still not sufficiently effective.

Vital events registration is regarded as basis for administrative record-keeping and population census. In Nepal, the VERS Act was introduced in 1976. Initially it covered 10 districts only. A government publication titled Panchayat Smarika [souvenir] published on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Panchayat system states that it will take some time to make progress in VERS. The Smarika noted that “If public awareness increases, it is expected that good signs will start to appear in the population sector.”

But even 32 years after the statement was made, the progress on this front remains slow. According to Nepal Demographic and Health Survey 2010/2011 and Multiple Cluster Survey 2010, only 42 percent of the total births are registered. The Multiple Cluster Survey of 2014 showed this percentage going up to 58.4 percent. These two surveys covered birth registrations only and excluded other vital events registrations including marriage, death, divorce and migration.

Nepal aims to achieve 100 percent registration of all vital events by 2024 AD.

According to the statistics published by the Department of Civil Registration, the numbers of male births and deaths are higher compared to females.

In 2010 around 380,000 male births and 338,000 female births were registered.

Similarly, 2011 saw 302,000 male births registered against 262,000 female birth registrations.

In 2012, the figures were 396,000 and 355,000 for males and females respectively, and they were 540,000 and 488,000 in 2013.

But in 2014, surprisingly, for the first time, female birth registrations surpassed that of males at 454,000 and 421,000 respectively.

But in 2015, again, 310,000 male births were registered against 290,000 female birth registrations.

Looking at the statistics, one does not find the lower female birth figures convincing.

Even in terms of death registration numbers, men surpass the females. In 2010, a total of 60,304 male deaths were registered against 38,034 female death registrations.

Likewise 77,600 male deaths and 33,007 female deaths were registered in 2011; 65,500 male deaths and 39,300 female deaths in 2012; and 74,000 and 48,000 in 2013.

But in 2014, female death registrations outnumbered male death registrations 66,600 to 47,700.

In 2015 again male death registrations increased to 57,600 against 37,000 female death registrations.

But the department’s statistics show that the record-keeping is sloppy. Most of the annual reports of the department do not have registration figures of all the districts.

The 2010 report shows the department received vital events registration statistics from 66 districts only. The report does not contain the figures from nine districts including Mahottari, Manang, Rukum, Salyan, Dolpa, Mugu, Jajarkot, Achham and Bajhang. Likewise the 2011 report has statistics from 67 districts only. Mahottari, Manang, Rukum, Dolpa, Mugu, Salyan, Achham could not send their figures on time. Similarly, the 2012 report does not have vital events registration figures from 12 districts — Sindhupalchowk, Rautahat, Gorkha, Dolpa, Arghakhanchi, Baglung, Parbat, Bajhang, Humla, Jajarkot, Baitadi and Gulmi. The 2014 annual report has not included the figures from Parsa district while the statistics of several other districts are also incomplete. The 2013 is comparatively better than others, but still it does not have vital events registration figures from Rolpa district.

The department in a report published in 2015 has listed the following as the challenges to vital events registration: Lack of awareness about the importance of vital events registration, the government’s failure to give due priority to VERS, allocation of less than adequate funds, shortage of manpower, and lack of training. Also, the designating of VDC secretary in the villages and ward secretary in the municipalities as local civil registrars has been mentioned as a problem because these local officials are already overburdened with other tasks and cannot give necessary attention to the vital events registration work.

Currently, it is difficult to acquire a citizenship certificate without birth or marriage registration. Likewise, without migration registration, it is difficult to get social security allowances.

Until and unless the vital events registration system is properly managed, the problem of mismatch in dates of birth will continue.

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