Even though India passed the Registration of Births and Deaths Act way back in 1969, the percentage of registration is still low with only 80 per cent of the births and just 67 per cent of the deaths being documented officially.
Even these statistics do not spell a correct picture because Performance of the States differs. States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu are showing a very high percentage of registration of births and deaths while most northern States are hardly recording any such events.
"We have 11 States showing close to 100 per cent registration of births but only 8 States registering all deaths," R. C. Sethi, senior consultant and former additional Registrar General of India told The Hindu at a two day Global Summit on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics organized by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Health Metrics Network in Bangkok.
Statistics presented at the meeting suggest that 40 million people are born and another 40 million people die across the developing world (one third and two thirds of the world’s annual total respectively) without a trace of official or legal record that renders them ineligible to attain basic human rights and access public services. Importantly, inadequate civil registration and vital statistics systems in countries limits the authority of evidence to plan the spending of, and measure the impact of trillions of dollars of national and donor budgets on poverty and welfare, impeding economic and social development.
Civil registration and vital statistics comprises information on the occurrence and characteristics of vital population events like births, deaths, and divorce as well as adoption, legitimation, recognition of parenthood, annulment of marriage and legal separation, and generation of vital statistics through compilation, analysis evaluation, presentation and dissemination of data.
While countries do use a number of alternate data collection indicators to complement incomplete CRVS systems, however, these are generally donor funded, project based, and only provide temporary solutions to long term data collection.
With the millennium development goal (MDG) deadline coming to a close, there is more focus on complete, accurate and tailed population information which are best provided by CRVS systems. The 2015 MDG deadline has put a spotlight on better capturing vital population events and monitoring the effectiveness and impact of health and development interventions as CRVS systems provide inputs on 42 out of the 60 MDG progress indicators, mainly on maternal and child health.
Describing registration of birth as a basic human right, Susan Bissell, Chief of Child Protection, UNICEF said one of every four developing countries had a registration rate of less than 50 per cent. While in some States, the registration of births and deaths touched 95 per cent in others it remained as low as 6 per cent but showed an average of 41 per cent which was a distorted picture.
Ms. Bissell said every year 200 million children globally slipped through the protection system and could not claim their entitlements to rights and services. They were deprived of their nationality, protection from child labour, child marriages, trafficking and illegal adoption. She advocated for birth registration as the first right of a child before he or she could begin their journey in life.
The situation was even worse for migrants and international refugees who were forced to leave their countries because of conflict and the children born to them were often stateless with no legal identity.
In India, trafficked girls from Bangladesh and Nepal rescued from brothels languish in institutions for months and years because it is difficult to prove their nationality. Similarly between 80 to 90 per cent of the disabled children in India do not have birth certificates, making them 'invisible' and unable to access care services.