“Around 54 per cent Indians say that they greased the palms of authorities to get things done,” observes study papers released last...
BY RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR | NT
PANAJI: “Around 54 per cent Indians say that they greased the palms of authorities to get things done,” observes study papers released last December on the occasion of International Anti-Corruption Day. “And India has cut the grade in the top five,” it adds.
Goa is an integral part of India, and hence cannot remain detached from the menace of corruption haunting the entire country. A person encounters corruption right from his birth and it haunts the family of the person even after his death, it is often said. So it would be interesting to observe this aspect in a department, which issues birth and death certificates.
In Goa, the birth and death registration procedure is controlled by the Chief Registrar of Births and Deaths under the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 and the Central Act 18 of 1969. The registration department operates with its eleven offices of Civil Registrars cum sub-registrars, one in each taluka, and the Office of the State Registrar cum Head of Notary Services at Panaji, besides two offices of the District Registrar, one each in North and South Goa.
Only certificates of birth and death registered prior to January 1, 1971, are issued by the offices of Civil Registrar cum sub-registrars, with some of the past records standing transferred to the department of archives and archaeology.
Fortunately, the copies of the birth and death certificates are now also available at all taluka headquarters, no matter where one’s birth or death is registered in the state.
The facility has been made possible by the Goa Broadband Network (GBBN), an initiative by the department of information and technology. The GBBN has linked all taluka headquarters with a central server, where the necessary records have been stored.
This means that one can visit the local office of the mamlatdar, sub-registrar or municipality and ask for a copy of the birth or death certificate. After the print-out is obtained, the officer on duty has to sign the copy for authentication. Some problems, however still exist in this system.
The birth and death certificates are usually issued at the time of occurrence of either of the event, or immediately after the occurrence of the event by a registration authority in its jurisdiction like say, a municipal body. For obtaining a birth/death certificate one has to apply in the prescribed form along with proof of birth/death and the certificate is issued on the same day after payment of the fee.
The corruption aspect in issuing birth/death certificates in Goa is not as much prevalent as it is in providing the fresh copies of the same. Most of the people lose such original certificates and have to rush to the authorities to get new copies. It is here that they encounter corrupt practices, mostly carried out by lower division staff.
It may be recalled that in February 2010, the anti-corruption branch of the CBI had exposed a racket wherein money was collected in return for early delivery of certificates at the office of the Panaji sub-registrar. A team led by PI (ACB) Rajesh Kumar had conducted a surprise check at the Panaji sub-registrar’s office and found a peon in possession of about 100 documents and money which was kept folded in a cover that also contained details of the names of the persons for delivery. The peon failed to explain why he was carrying so many documents with him. He was charging anywhere between Rs 50 and Rs 300, depending on the clients and the type of documents that they required. The raid was carried out in response to a large number of complaints received from the public.
In his modus operandi, the peon would ensure that applicants came three or four times to the sub-registrar’s office to collect the certificate. Every time an applicant would visit, the peon would ensure that they did not get the certificate. After three or four such experiences, he would tell the applicant that it is possible for him to get the document if he is paid some money.
The action seems to have improved the situation not only in the city office of the sub-registrar, but all offices around the state issuing such certificates. However, no one can guarantee complete obliteration of corruption. When this daily spoke to a couple of people who had recently visited the authorities to get such certificates, they informed that the situation was much better now.
“Without a bribe one can’t get even a death certificate so that the kith and kin can perform last rites in time,” remarked Mr Micheal Pereira, a resident of Tiswadi taluka, who further said that the situation in Goa is far better than many other states. “I had to collect the death certificate of my cousin when he expired couple of years ago, and the Taleigao village panchayat immediately issued it to me after the doctor’s certificate was produced,” he added, pointing out that it is one of the most efficient panchayats in making available the birth and death certificates.
Mr Raghav Chari, who recently visited the sub-registrar’s office in the city to pick up a copy of birth certificate of his son dating back to 1970s, was surprised to find that things have improved over the years. “I remember some 15 years ago, when I had to collect a birth certificate copy for my neighbour, they made me wait for one long month, and was even given a hint that the copy could be made available earlier if I opened my purse,” he recalled, “but frankly speaking, this office now seems a little more efficient and little more honest.”