ID, India, regulation

Biometrics can help bring order out of chaos

Special drive for registration of cycle-rickshaws in Delhi (The Hindu)

After years of harassment from the police and municipal authorities, there is finally some good news for the rickshaw pullers and owners. In compliance with the directions of the Delhi High Court, the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) on Wednesday announced a special drive for registration of cycle-rickshaws and rickshaw pullers through their Citizen Service Bureaus (CSB). Likewise, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation initiated the drive on March 25.

According to municipal officials, the process of registration has been simplified and residence proof or proof of purchase of cycle-rickshaw would not be asked from the applicant. The CSBs have also been equipped with biometric machines, to take index finger impressions, and cameras for taking the photographs of the applicants for registration.

This system seems a lot like the recent effort in the Philippines to register all the bus drivers in Manila. Traffic congestion, public safety, and compliance with government licencing are some of the major goals of registration initiatives like these. Biometrics — fingerprints in this case — offer a cheap, convenient means of creating an ID system from scratch i.e. one that doesn’t rely on a pre-existing paper trail.

It is this last detail that is often overlooked by those skeptical of biometric systems. It’s just impossible for some people to imagine what it would be like to be entirely cut off from the ID infrastructure or how to go about creating one for those who can’t prove anything about their own personal history.

What is your date of birth? 
Where were you born? 
What is your father’s name? 
 I don’t know. 

In cases like the regulation of rickshaw pullers discussed, you don’t really need to know anything except that the person attached to this finger paid their fee and is legally entitled to ply their trade. A decent ID system can then be built out from there.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that those challenged with bringing some ID order out of chaos are finding a lot to like about biometrics.

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