Despite a 1969 Act, birth & death registration in India still low

Registration of births and deaths is still low in India, at 80 and 67 per cent respectively. This in spite of the country passing the Registration of Births and Deaths Act way back in 1969.

Even these statistics do not give a correct picture because the performance of States differs, with Kerala and Tamil Nadu showing a very high percentage of registration and most northern States hardly recording the events.

“We have 11 States showing close to 100 per cent registration of births but only eight 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” organised by the World Health Organisation and the Health Metrics Network here.

Statistics presented at the meeting suggest that 40 million people are born and 40 million 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 would have got them access to basic human rights and public services. Importantly, inadequate civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems in countries limit the authority of evidence to plan the spending 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 comprise information on births, deaths, and divorce as well as adoption, legitimation, recognition of parenthood, annulment of marriage and legal separation.

With the Millennium Development Goals deadline coming to a close, there is more focus on complete, accurate and detailed population information which is best provided by the CRVS systems. The 2015 MDGs deadline has put the spotlight on better capturing vital population events and monitoring the effectiveness and impact of health and development interventions as the 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 out of every four developing countries had a registration rate less than 50 per cent. In India, it was the rich and the privileged who got themselves registered. 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 that every year globally 200 million children 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 marriage, trafficking and illegal adoption. She advocated making birth registration the first right of a child before he or she could begin the journey in life.

In India, girls from Bangladesh and Nepal rescued from brothels languished in institutions for months and years because it was difficult to prove their nationality. And, 80-90 per cent of the disabled children in India did not have birth certificates, rendering them ‘invisible’ and unable to access care services.

  • Every year, globally 200 million children slip through protection system

  • In India, 80-90% of disabled children don’t have birth certificates, are rendered ‘invisible’