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Book Excerpt: Data ‘mis-entry’

by | Jul 18, 2022 | Books

Excerpt from the book ‘Decoding Indian Babudom’ by Ashwini Shrivastava

Both the central and state governments run different schemes for people’s welfare. People also need to get certain official IDs/ documents to get access to a host of government services.

For instance, Aadhaar (the 12-digit unique number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India or the UIDAI) has been made (*almost) mandatory for people for a large number of schemes/facilities.

* I say so as Aadhaar is compulsory in practice but may not be so in black and white.

Aadhaar is needed for getting a bank account opened and for passport application, among other services.

Similarly, a Permanent Account Number (PAN) issued by the Income Tax department is required for opening a Demat account (short for dematerialization account for holding stock market securities), filing of returns, purchase of property and for doing other financial transactions.

An Elector Photo Identity Card (EPIC) is issued by the Election Commission of India for eligible voters.

An identity card is also issued for eligible beneficiaries of the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS).

Such identity cards or documents issued by the government entities are needed by most of the individuals for work, investment, identification, address proof or foreign travel.

These documents are also required for getting benefits under the welfare schemes implemented by the government.

All these are important documents and help people in ease of living. However, there are instances of data entry errors in processing these identity cards. It may sound a small or
insignificant concern but has wide ramifications.

I have seen so many people applying online for correction or queuing up outside government offices to fix such data errors or ‘mis’ entries.

What is frustrating is that in a majority of cases they were victims of data ‘mis’entry by those feeding the data. It becomes highly inconvenient for people to revisit the formalities in order to fix the incorrect data in their identity cards.

At times, somebody’s name or address gets misspelt on Aadhaar or EPIC. From incorrect mentioning of date of birth, age, gender to family details (spouse, mother and father as the
case may be) an individual faces any or all of these mostly due to error in data entry.
(I myself have been a victim of data ‘mis’entry and can very well imagine the pain and agony one undergoes to get the corrections done).

In most cases, all these errors happen at the entry level, that is by the person feeding the data.

The carelessness in data entry is a national problem and it has spread its tentacles to the private sector as well (wrong entry in health or insurance policy among others).

I would not say that it is done on purpose but it is a major reason affecting good governance initiatives.

It can also be held responsible for creating a negative perception about the country’s governance system as almost everyone needs such documents with correct entries related to their personal details.

Why is it difficult to mention the name, address, family and required personal details correctly in the government database or on identity cards/official documents issued by the
authorities?

Is it lack of alertness (if not carelessness), overburdened and unskilled data entry operators or demotivation that results in wrong entries that create problems for the common man.

This opens up avenues for touts/corrupt officers to cash in from those who do not have access to the right people or resources to raise grievances against it?

Most of the governance related problems that is creating this negative image of the country’s governance system, can be rectified if those incharge of feeding in the data for issuing
government documents (be it Aadhaar or EPIC or any other) are more careful.

Senior officials and supervisors need to pay urgent and special attention to this aspect to ensure good governance.

A considerable number of people in this country may not have uniformity of name and other details in their identity cards/relevant government documents mainly due to avoidable
data entry errors.

People also need to be cautious while filling up application forms either online or offline. One of the ways is to have a fully digitized system that pops up a replica of the identity cards/government documents that are being issued by the concerned authority at the time of application itself.

This measure is being followed by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) while accepting applications for issuance of passport online.

One gets to know what major details his or her passport would have post its issuance. It does away with the possibility of data errors that might happen in manual feeding of the data.

UIDAI, Income Tax department and the Election Commission of India may also consider such facilities for issuance of Aadhaar, PAN and EPIC, respectively.

Such and other changes would change the face of governance.

There is a need for the government organizations to learn from each other and improve. Good governance practices being followed by a department need to be followed by others doing similar work.

One of the examples is UIDAI and the Election Commission of India. An individual can get a duplicate Aadhaar card by payment of a fee online at his or her registered address in the UIDAI’s records.

However, at present there is no such facility (as of March 2021) that allows an individual to get his or her EPIC or voter ID card on payment of fees online.

Why such a facility has not been started by the Election Commission is really a matter of concern?

Digitization, with zero human interference, would be a game changer for the country.

People suffer and blame government authorities for corruption, red tapism and error in data entry as most of the public services are partially digitized with human (government employee/officer) intervention.

The country needs to completely digitize all public service deliveries with no human interference else business as usual would sadly continue!

From issuance of identity cards and official documents to getting them corrected, putting all these works in an online frame would help the people immensely.

Ashwini Shrivastava
Assistant Editor at Press Trust of India | Website | + posts

Ashwini Shrivastava has been practicing journalism for over 15 years and is considered as a credible voice on matters related to India’s governance, bureaucracy, Right to Information (RTI), anti-corruption and tax evasion matters among others.

Press Trust of India (PTI), the country’s largest news wire, at its Delhi’s office as Assistant Editor.