‘Invisible’ births are major roadblock in government's planning process for children

Kulsum Mustafa - CNS
In UP the child sex ratio is 904 per thousand and 899 for 0-6 years. The national figure is 954:  Like in all other development indicators, Uttar Pradesh also lags behind in the child birth registration. While only 67.08% children in the state get their birth registered in the government records, out of this it is a very miniscule percentage which actually are issued the birth registration certificate. Unknown to the child and his parents this lack of data puts the child in the ‘invisible’ category and it becomes a big hurdle in getting a correct picture of the number of children born and living, greatly affecting planning. The process of registration is governed by the 1969 national Act of Registration of Births and Deaths.

It is compulsory to register all birth and death under the provisions of this Act. Besides India is also a signatory to the United Nations Convention, which makes it mandatory to issue birth certificates to every child born on its soil. But unfortunately India holds the dubious distinction of having the largest number of unregistered children in the country.

Birth registration is the first and fundamental right of a child that he acquires immediately after birth and from this right stem all his rights – like school admission, health facilities, bank account opening, passport, and of course right as a voter. The entire registration process is split into two-while the part is the birth registration and other step is the certification where a child gets a certificate which he can use as a legal document.
“The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name (and) the right to acquire a nationality….”. Article 7 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child
But this very important aspect of a Child Right has hitherto not been given the importance it deserves in the state. But since 2010, this is being looked into in the state and efforts have been made both by the government as well as NGOs working in children issues to raise awareness and raise percentage of registration. Birth registration has been raised from 62.46% (2009) to 67.08% (2010). There are 52,761 total registration units in Uttar Pradesh out of which 52032 are in rural area and 729 are in urban area.

But there is a silver line in the dark sky. Vatsalya an NGO working in Uttar Pradesh since 1996 on child rights issues (Birth Registration and Right to inherent life of every child), Adolescent Health, Maternal and Child Health-Nutrition and other developmental issues has taken up this issue. In collaboration with health directorate and Plan India they have helped create awareness both among the masses as well as the medical fraternity to work on this vital issue of Child Rights.

Anjani Kumar, Vatsalaya, heading this project told us they have adopted the Child Centred Community Development (CCCD) approach in 31 communities of Mall block, one of the eight blocks of Lucknow district. The focus of program is to build communities where children’s needs are met and where they can grow and develop.

He said that when they started work in this block the data showed that there was no absolutely no awareness among the community members on this issue.  “Out of 13206 child population (0 to 19 years) of the intervention area only 107 children were having their birth certificates. There was no proper system or mechanism being followed to issue birth certificates. There was no stationary available for birth registration certificates either”, informed Mr Kumar.

An orientation programme was conducted in April, 2012 on the process of birth registration. Further, in Lucknow district they provided the stationary and seal for birth certificates. Regular meetings were conducted with Medical Superidentant of Mall community health centre (CHC) interactions with community members were organized on this important issue. To clear the backlog children under the 5 years were issued birth certificates via collecting data, filing up their forms and sending them to SDM. By these 3110 children less than five years got BR.

* Children below 21 days are to be registered free
* Children older than 21 years but below 30 days: 2 rupees delay fee
* Children older than 30 days below than 1 year: rupees 5 delay fees
* Children above 1 year: Rs 10 delay fees with magistrate's permission
* Easy option of online filling of form 1 for birth registration which directly goes to the Registrar
A visit to the Block and a study of the hospital registers revealed that the block which had less than 10 per cent CBR certificates issued has in the last one year raised this number to nearly 95 per cent. Dr Anand Tripathi, who heads Mall Community health centre since August 2012 caters to a population of 1.7 lakhs.  Around 150 -200 children are born each month at this CHC.

“Earlier BRC were need based, if one needed them they were given otherwise very few parents in blocks like ours asked for them. Now we have made them compulsory,” explained Dr Tripathi.  Dr Priyanaka Mauya, a 2007 batch doctor who has been working at this Centre since 2010 and was given exclusive charge of birth registration since 2012 says efficiency has been raised here because with responsibility she has also been provided with a support staff, regular briefings are held by senior doctors and health officers, and the requisite stationery like the certificate form and seals are also in adequate supply.

Speaking to Citizen News Service at her hospital cum residence in Indiranagar,  Lucknow, Dr Neelam Singh, Vatsalay said, “The Act governing this vital Child Right is ancient (1969) and needs to be amended. 16% of the cases in our judiciary do not get finalized because they do not owe the birth registration said Dr Singh. Advocating that CBR work must be taken up at war footing, Dr Singh said that this is a free and must service that all parents must ensure for their children.

Kulsum Mustafa, Citizen News Service - CNSJune 2013
(The author is a senior journalist based in Lucknow, India)