Smart NID card distribution hiccups

Dhaka,  Wed,  20 September 2017
Published : 05 Aug 2017, 20:41:28

Smart NID card distribution hiccups

The progress of the smart National Identity (NID) card distribution project is quite unsatisfactory. It is very much likely that the Election Commission (EC) would miss the target of completing the distribution of the cards by December next. A special report, published in this paper late last week, contained a few pieces of information that highlighted the fact that the EC would be left with no option other than extending the life of the smart NID project if it wanted to hand over the machine-readable cards to all the voters across the country. 

The smart NID distribution programme is reportedly facing serious setback mainly due to supply disruption of blank cards, a few other technical problems and poor response from the card receivers. Allegations have it that a French company, which was supposed to supply 90 million blank smart NID cards under a deal signed in 2014, has repeatedly failed to accomplish its task. This had led to the extension of the project deadline by one and a half years. Besides, the number of machines that print biometric data on smart cards is too inadequate. Only 3.0 per cent of around 100 million valid NID card holders have so far taken delivery of their smart cards. 

Even in Dhaka city, where smart NID distribution work has been going on for several months, nearly 40 per cent of the voters have been found reluctant to collect their smart cards from designated points. The EC officials are now worried about meeting the project deadline. In addition to shortage of manpower and logistics, the campaign on the part of the EC to inform the voters about the NID card distribution programme has been too weak. In fact, many voters are not at all aware of the distribution porgramme. Besides, many poor daily wage earners are not ready to spoil a full day's work for the sake of collecting smart cards. Many others are not interested because of the hassles involved in getting the cards at the distribution points. 

There is no denying that a smart NID card is an important possession for a citizen. The production of the existing information chip-free NID cards has already been made mandatory while receiving certain important services, both public and private. Since the service providers would have the opportunity to get all the personal information about the smart NID card holders at their fingertips, it is natural that its mandatory presentation at the time of service delivery would be far more extensive in the future. 

So, the issue of smart NID card distribution deserves greater attention from both the EC and citizens. The story behind the distribution of the present NID cards was not at all palatable. The EC had scrapped a voters' ID card project after spending a lot of money. However, under a new project initiated by the last military-backed caretaker government, citizens had received their ID cards. The EC should make renewed efforts to strengthen the smart NID card distribution programme and help the citizens get their cards in a hassle-free environment.  

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
Published by the Editor for International Publications Limited from Tropicana Tower (4th floor), 45, Topkhana Road, GPO Box : 2526 Dhaka- 1000 and printed by him from City Publishing House Ltd., 1 RK Mission Road, Dhaka-1000.
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