This month and the next will see an energetic campaign in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand to ensure that Dalits and tribals acquire birth and caste certificates that will entitle them to state privileges

Knowing one's rights often serves as the first line of defence against exploitation.

But to enjoy the entitlements of these rights, it is necessary for the citizens to possess an authentication card. In the absence of these "identity" cards, even the most basic rights sometimes get trespassed, resulting in exploitation and discrimination, and even violence.

The case is true of the Dalits and tribals living in some of the most backward regions of India.

An attempt is being made to educate villagers about the importance of identity cards and their contribution in creating a torture-free climate by the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, an organisation based in Varanasi.

To this end, the PVCHR has kicked off the Meri Pehchaan or ‘My Identity’ campaign in 72 model villages in different blocks of the Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.

Equating "identity" with dignity, the campaign will hold discussions in each village on the importance of identity cards.

The activists of PVCHR will reach out to the homes of the villagers and list the persons who do not possess some of the basic identity cards, including caste certificates and birth certificates, says PCVHR programme Manager Shirin Shabana Khan.

"These areas are mostly inhabited by tribals and dalits. They are unaware of their rights and even if they have rights they do not have the proper cards to validate them. We will meet the concerned officials and submit an application to them so that the villagers get their identity cards,"she said.

The target blocks are Pindre in Varanasi, Tanda in Ambedkar Nagar, Robertsganj in Sonbhadra, Chaka in Allahabad and Domchach in Jharkhand.

A preliminary survey of 3000 persons by PVCHR activists had concluded that most of the people did not own any type of identity cards such as election card, caste certificate, birth registration and death registration certificate. 

A caste certificate is the proof of one’s belonging to a particular caste, especially in case one belongs to any of the ‘Scheduled Castes.’ Through the possession of this card, these citizens can avail the privileges granted to them, including reservation of seats in the legislatures and in government service, waiving off a part of or the whole fees for admission to schools and colleges, and quotas in educational institutions. 

To ensure that children are counted and have access to basic services such as health, social security and education, birth registration is central. It also protects the child from child labour, being arrested and treated as adults in the justice system, forcible conscription in armed forces, child marriage, trafficking and sexual exploitation.  In effect, birth registration is their ‘passport to protection.’ The campaign, which kicked off in July, will last till August 15.