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ID cards “not mandatory” now

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IDENTITY CRISIS: A volley of protests like this one here by CPI (M) workers in Delhi on Monday forced the withdrawal of the Identity Card order.
IDENTITY CRISIS: A volley of protests like this one here by CPI (M) workers in Delhi on Monday forced the withdrawal of the Identity Card order.

Staff Reporter

Delhi L-G backtracks on order that kicked off a storm

NEW DELHI: With the issue of “mandatory carrying of identity proof” in the Capital having raised a massive storm, Delhi’s Lieutenant-Governor Tejendra Khanna on Monday said he had not spoken about compulsory possession of identity cards by the local residents and that the situation would not change after January 15.

The issue had created quite a stir as many saw it as a way of discouraging people of other States from coming to Delhi. So much so that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar even complained to the Prime Minister against the order saying it intended to “turn Delhi into a police State” and was a “sinister design to target people of Bihari origin”.

Since a stray remark by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit about people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh had created a similar ruckus last year, she led a delegation of her Cabinet colleagues to Mr. Khanna in Raj Niwas on Monday to demand a recall of his order. With Delhi due to go to the polls later this year, such an order is the last thing the Congress would want while trying to register its third successive victory in the battle of the ballot.

A delegation of Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee led by its president J. P. Agarwal and comprising Members of Parliament Jagdish Tytler, Sandeep Dikshit and Krishna Tirath among others also called on the Lieutenant-Governor during the day and requested him not to implement the decision which had “created a fear psychosis among the people”.

Mr. Agarwal said it was impractical to implement the photo identity card scheme in haste as people from various parts of the country live in Delhi or visit the city every day.

He cautioned that the ID cards scheme if implemented would lead to colossal harassment of people at the hands of the police.

The Lieutenant-Governor clarified that it was in view of heightened security threats and with a view to improving the security consciousness of the public and the security environment in Delhi that he had instructed the Police Commissioner to step up surveillance and start screening persons moving around suspiciously.

During such screening, possession of any photo identification document would be of convenience to the persons whose conduct might have aroused suspicion, he reasoned.

Such increased surveillance, he said, would take place during periods of enhanced threat perception such as Republic Day, Independence Day and various festivals.

Mr. Khanna said no “mandatory order” had been issued by him about compulsory possession of identity cards or their checking as such by the police from this coming January 15.

“Nor was it ever intended or suggested that non-possession of a photo identity cards would be treated as any kind of violation or elicit punitive action by the police,” said an official release issued by Raj Niwas.

The Lieutenant-Governor also assured the Chief Minister, her ministerial colleagues and the DPCC delegation that he only had the best interests of the Capital’s citizens at heart so that they could go about their daily lives in a more reliable, stable and secure environment.

Widespread protests

Special Correspondent adds:

The Lieutenant-Governor’s move had evoked sharp criticism from all political parties, with the Janata Dal (United) going to the extent of demanding that he be sacked.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party said the move was directed against the migrant work force who form the core support base for the Capital, Janata Dal (U) president Sharad Yadav demanded that the L-G be sacked for making a suggestion which was “anti-people and violative of the Constitutional provisions”.

The Bahujan Samaj Party and the Lok Janshakti Party, an ally of the UPA government at the Centre, had also demanded immediate withdrawal of the decision on identity proof, saying it threatened the basic fabric and structure of the Constitution. Congress party spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan had said the party was “not in agreement with such a decision”.

BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy described the identity card suggestion as “draconian and fraught with discrimination”. He said the failure of the Union Government or the Delhi Government led by the Congress to tighten “their intelligence and security systems to stem or fight terrorism cannot be a ground to turn Delhi into a military cantonment where persons will have to possess a mandatory localised identification”.

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