07 Jul 10 The Right to Exist: A question of identity

VN_Blog_The-right-to-existIndia’s democracy has provided many “rights” and privileges for her citizens, some of which have been constitutionally or legislatively formalised, others more informal. But most of these rights are meaningless for a large chunk of Indians, the poor, homeless and landless.


Meaningless, due to a crucial missing piece – the lack of an identity!

A couple of years ago, a domestic help in our house was unable to get her daughter admitted to a municipal school, because she possessed no papers that could prove age, or permanent address. No papers, no school – what’s the use of a right to education?


Similarly, in another instance, a domestic worker wanted to open a bank account (partly to keep some money safe from her alcoholic wife-beating husband). Bank officials refused, stumped by the same identity crisis.


We know goondas, dishonest builders, politicians and many other rich and powerful folks routinely grab land from illiterate and poor villagers, paying them well below market values, if at all. And there’s nothing the victim can do, because there is no piece of paper showing family ownership of the land. And probably no papers to establish birth lines!


In reality, the lack of (documented) identity effectively means that millions simply do not exist. Since they don’t exist, they can’t own the land they live on, don’t get ration, can’t get into school, can’t vote, and are ineligible for almost every grandiose government welfare scheme.

No paper, no exist, no rights! Simple.


Which is why the Unique ID scheme can be a game changer. Mr. Nilekani and his team can help enable fundamental rights for many, many millions of Indians… And I’m sure I speak for many, in that the choice of leader inspires much hope that the project will be executed with integrity, innovation, and meticulous execution. Nandan – we wish you the best!

Arun Jethmalani

Arun is one of the founders of ValueNotes. Apart from trying to build a high-quality research business, he has spent the last 27 years researching, analyzing, and dissecting companies and industries. He has worked with clients of all shapes and sizes, from all parts of the world – in providing them insights that make a difference to their business.
Prior to ValueNotes, he was an equity analyst/advisor, and wrote extensively on investing – including a column titled “Value for Money” which ran for 10 years in the Sunday edition of the Economic Times. To this day, he remains an avid “value” investor.
He has also been published in several other publications, and is a regular speaker at events related to technology, investing, competitive intelligence, business process management, Internet, etc. See: Valuenotes Events
He has been instrumental in developing a community of research and intelligence professionals in India, and is the founder and current chairman of the SCIP (India) Chapter. Arun holds a B Tech from IIT, Bombay and an MS from Duke University, NC, USA. LinkedIn Profile

  • namrata
    Posted at 12:51h, 15 September Reply

    disagree with harish sonawane – it’s not only a case with the ‘poor’ …in many cases like mine for one; due to some stroke of bad luck, have lost all papers – i have lost all!!

    i obviously optimistically look forward to the Unique ID scheme as a panacea for all ills that follow – that vital and missing one piece of paper!!

  • Shalini
    Posted at 11:34h, 02 August Reply

    I totally agree. Most of us take it for granted while the poor run from pillar to post trying to get things done. Can we really blame them for resorting to bribes?

  • harish sonawane
    Posted at 18:19h, 27 July Reply

    Don’t you think you are being quite over-optimistic?

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