Birth Registration - the picture in India
The history of civil registration in India is more than hundred years old. The enactment of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 (RBD Act) was an important landmark, which made the registration of births, deaths and still births compulsory across the country.
This Act provides for:
- Uniform law across the country on the registration of births and deaths
- Compulsory reporting and registration of all births and deaths
- Implementation of the Act is the responsibility of the State Governments
- Rules framed by the state governments are based on a model set of rules provided by the Central Government (Registrar General, India).
Situation in India
An estimated 26 million births and about 9 million deaths take place in the country every year. Together, approximately 35 million vital events have to be registered every year. This is more than the currently estimated population of Canada (approx 31 million ). The net addition of 17 million to the population is more than the currently estimated population of the Netherlands (16.2 million ).
The current registration level of births and deaths in the country is about 58% for births and 54% for deaths.
Each year about 42% of births go unregistered, which is about 10 million births
There are 5 major low performing states (UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, AP and Madhya Pradesh) that have problems of low registration ranging from 20% to 57% which is affecting the overall registration level in the country because these 5 low performing states also account for approximately 25% of the annual births and are among the most populous states in the country.
Registration level in the rural areas is lower when compared to the urban areas.
Key Issues & Challenges
- Low priority accorded to registration and general apathy
- Lack of inter-departmental co-ordination
- Inadequate budget allocation by the States for Civil Registration work
- Low levels of knowledge amongst registration functionaries about the processes and procedures of registration, reporting and management of data
- Lack of regular monitoring and supervision of civil registration work in the states
Lack of demand:
- Lack of awareness about the need and importance of registration
- Low utility of registration certificates and the use of alternate documents for proving the date of birth and claiming benefits.
- Weak demand for vital statistics among planners and administrators.
Initiatives to improve registration
UNICEF works with the office of the Registrar General of India, the respective state governments and NGO partners to create an enabling environment so that every child is registered and gets a birth certificate. The focus of these partnerships have been to strengthen the civil registration system at national, state and district levels, resulting in significant increase in the number of children with birth certificates. The aim is to:
- Accelerate and improve the birth registration service delivery system.
- Facilitate demand creation amongst parents, guardians, community leaders and service providers for registration and issuance of birth certificates.
- Enhance compilation, analysis and use of the vital statistics collected through the civil registration system to inform planning and programming.
- Pilot specific interventions targeting the most vulnerable (i.e., children in ‘hard to reach areas’ and ‘hard to reach children’).
While there is much to be done to achieve universal birth/death registration in India, many positive steps have been taken to:
- A National Campaign on Birth Certificates was initiated in November 2003 with the objective of clearing the backlog on issuance of birth certificates accumulated over last 10 years. During the first phase of the campaign, approximately 30 million birth certificates were issued in a span of one year. The Second Phase of the national campaign was launched in April 2005 and according to the Office of the Registrar General, India approx 93 lakhs birth certificates have been distributed during this Phase.
- The government has also initiated the review process of the Registration of Birth and Death Act, 1969 (RBD Act) after a span of 37 years; to look into legal and administrative procedures and bottlenecks so as to make the law more citizen-friendly. The revised Act is expected to be placed before the winter session of the Parliament for approval this year (2006).
- Create mass awareness through publicity campaigns
- Computerization in a number of urban local bodies have resulted in quicker and faster registration services.
- The government also has plans to establish approximately 100,000 Citizen Service Centres across the country, which will also include civil registration services as one of the facilities provided.
UNICEF works in close partnership with Plan International and other community based NGOs to create demand for birth registration services.