The image of the election commission, which has failed to protect the people's right to vote, has already been faded. Its failure to prevent corruption in the National Identity card project has tarnished its image further. The authorities have also shown its weakness in taking action against those who are identified for committing big corruption.
So it is time to rethink the management of the NID card project beyond just putting a check on corruption or NID forgery. In the past one decade, the election commission was simultaneously responsible for preparing voter list, making NID cards, distributing and updating voter list. The constitution of 1972 specifically assigned the EC to make voter lists. The Section 6 of the National Identity Registration Act of 2010 states that the EC shall ‘perform all the duties related to the activities of NID registration, preparation, distribution and its maintenance.'
Now a question has been raised whether it is appropriate or not to place the entire responsibility of preparing voter list and registering NID on the shoulders of the election commission.
The entire matter should be considered seriously. More than a year ago, a scandal was uncovered in Chittagong over the supply of fake NID cards to at least 3,800 Rohingyas. The issue is not just a matter of financial corruption like pillow or curtain scandals. The issue of national security is closely linked to this. For a long time, the news of various scams regarding NID is being published in the media. Unfortunately, there is no instance that the election commission has taken any effective or appropriate measures against it. The EC’s attitude to ‘catch the fish without wetting the hands' indicates that they have set a terrible example of managerial failure.
So now the policy makers must look into the matter whether it is the time to diverge the responsibility of NID registration and preparing the voter list.
There is a direct connection between vote and being a voter in this current political context. Once, more than 10 million fake voters were created under the leadership of the commission. But the fault in making NID cards is far more devastating than the blunder in preparing voter list. The smart card of its nationals is very important and sensitive for a nation. The authenticity of the national identity card has an impact on the daily life of the citizens. We have talked to the experts on the issue. Some of the experts said when the project was launched, it was assumed that the election commission would be able to show strong leadership.
But it has already been proven that NID card project is no longer safe under the sole leadership of EC. When the project was launched in 2008 it was thought that the EC will be able to hand over NID cards to 85 million citizens by 2016 and they would be able to overcome the dependency on outsourcing services. They have failed to do so. However, carrying on outsourcing services means breaching the security and inviting constant newer threats to the national security.
Moreover, the issue of giving NID cards to every Bangladeshi national from zero to 17 years of age will also become very pertinent in the future. Then the pressure on the EC will be multiplied. We think that NID-related irregularities should be taken into consideration with utmost importance and a strong separate body should be established to prevent that. We need to ensure the surveillance to the NID card project to the level we do for our state mint.