By Gurinder Gulati
Mohan Bhai and Parvatiben of Nali Madani village in Valsad proudly show the birth certificate of their child, Kushali, which was issued by the Government of Gujarat within 15 days of birth. They produce it instantly when asked. “It is my child’s right. This will be of help while admitting our daughter in school. Also, it serves as an authentic proof of citizenship and her age”, says Mohan Bhai.
In Gujarat today approximately 97 percent of children born are registered within one month and 93 percent have birth certificates. The Government is making efforts to deliver certificates to those parents and guardians who do not come back to collect the certificates. In fact, Gujarat has always been ahead as far as the civil registration system is concerned. Till 1996, more than 95 percent of children born were being registered. However, due to a lack of monitoring and vacancies at various administrative levels, the number of registrations dropped to about 86 percent during the years 1997 to 2003.
This trend has since been reversed due to several key measures taken by the state government with UNICEF support. A decentralized monitoring system has been put in place. In the first instance, the Civil Registration System (CRS) Cell at the state level has been upgraded with the addition of IT and MIS professionals and installation of high-end computers. Similarly, a cell has been set up at the district level under the direct supervision of the Chief District Health Officer, who also functions as the District Registrar.
The State CRS Cell and District Cell are now connected through a Wide Area Network. This has helped in on-line monitoring by the State on the performance of each district. In the same manner, the District Registrar now has access to the data and returns filed by each village. Earlier, all the returns were sent to the state headquarters for entry, which resulted in considerable delays. Now, with the web-based software and connectivity between the state and the district, it has been possible to institutionalize data entry at the District Registrar’s office itself.
UNICEF has also provided assistance in training of key civil registration officials at different levels to improve the quality of data. More than 80 district/municipal officials have been trained in the entire civil registration system; analysis of the data and its importance for planning purposes. Village and block level officials too have been trained in gathering and recording of data.
With the re-establishment of an upgraded electronic civil registration infrastructure in the state, the State Government now boasts of having ensured the first right of the child.