Scammed! From birth to death

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On April 12, 2022, Mamatha gave birth to a baby at the Government Maternity Hospital, Nayapul. She and her husband Narasimhulu had not yet decided on the name of the baby, so hospital records left the column blank.

Modus operandi

A few months later, an application was filed in one of the Mee Seva centres in the city for the issue of a birth certificate for the baby under the name Manleen Kaur. The certificate was issued promptly, without any doubts being raised about how the daughter of Narasimhulu and Mamatha could be named after a Punjabi Sikh maiden honorific.

Later, another application was filed seeking corrections in the names of the parents. Mamtha and Narsimhulu were replaced by Sardarni Kaur and Sardar Bhagat Singh. The application had to be mandatorily approved by the Registrar of Births and Deaths, the designated Assistant Medical Officers of Health (AMOH) serving in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), and it got approved; no questions asked!

A baby named Manleen Kaur with Bhagat Singh and Sardarni Kaur as parents had officially taken birth in the GHMC records, even before Narasimhulu and Mamatha, the original parents could apply for a birth certificate for their baby born in Nayapul Government Maternity Hospital.

GHMC probe

Thanks to a whistle-blower, the GHMC authorities got a whiff of the serious irregularity and started a probe which opened a can of worms.

As per the procedure in place for the issue of birth/death certificates, the hospital generates a birth event and shares it online, which is accessed by the Mee Seva centre for the issue of an instant birth certificate in case the parents apply within one year. However, the parents will have to provide documentary proof of the birth of the child.

Secondly, any correction in the certificate needs to be physically approved by the AMOH of the respective circle.

Reportedly, the documents sent by Mamatha and Narsimhulu have not even reached the concerned AMOH. Meanwhile, the computer operator, hired on an outsource basis, approved the correction of the parents’ names to Bhagat Singh and Sardarni Kaur through online mode.

Probe revelations

Fake birth/death certificates issued

Hyderabad- 15,801

Cyberabad- 4,308

Rachakonda- 1,629

Siddipet- 257

A GHMC probe has found that only 6,000 of the 31,000 certificates issued during 2022-23 were genuine

Enquiry into this case revealed a large number of irregularities committed in the issue of birth and death certificates over the past one year, and GHMC authorities have, with one stroke of the pen, cancelled about 25,000 birth and death certificates issued without documentary proof. Upon elimination of duplications, the number of fake certificates issued was realised at nearly 22,000.

Officials say that of the 31,000 certificates issued during the year, only 6,000 were genuine and had documentary support. In a large number of cases, the mandatory proceedings by the Revenue Divisional Officer were absent.

The issuance of birth/death certificates is much simpler if the event occurred in a hospital where the records are available. If the birth/death happens at home or elsewhere, a Non-Availability Certificate (NAC) is to be issued by GHMC, certifying that the details are not in the records. As per norms, one needs to apply for the certificate by attaching the NAC, and the RDO must issue the proceedings after a thorough investigation.

To execute the certificate scam, the Mee Seva operators uploaded random papers in place of the RDO’s proceedings and issued birth certificates. In some instances, blank papers were uploaded. In a specific instance in Quthbullapur Circle, the certificate was generated by uploading RDO’s proceedings pertaining to the death of another person!

Who’s to blame?

GHMC officials squarely blame the amendment made to the procedure a year ago for this fiasco. With this amendment, the verification by the Registrar of Births & Deaths was done away with for the issuance of an NAC. Now, the NAC could be auto-generated with a digital signature which may be obtained from the Mee Seva centres, before proceeding to the RDO.

“The change was brought in by the erstwhile Chief Secretary to simplify the process, as thousands of NAC applications were pending with the respective circle offices,” an official says.

The reform visibly backfired, and serious lapses were found in the process. The amendment could be misused for creating fake identities or usurping properties. According to officials, fake certificates were issued in over 800 Mee Seva centres within the GHMC area. The Chief Medical Officer, Health, has addressed letters to the Commissioners of Police of Hyderabad, Cyberabad, Rachakonda, and Siddipet, seeking an investigation into the scam.

The maximum number of such irregularities, at 15,801, took place in the limits of Hyderabad, more so in the purview of three circles of Mehdipatnam, Charminar, and Malakpet, say officials.

Reform recalled

Post the unearthing of the scam, the reforms were recalled, and the process for obtaining birth/death certificates has reverted to the old method. Accordingly, the screen for verification by Registrars of Births & Deaths has been created afresh, and a caveat has been introduced for corrections, disallowing drastic and unrelated changes in names, officials informed.

“Outsourcing as a model of employment that leaves room for many more such irregularities at several places in the governance. If caught, the employee loses around ₹10,000 per month of salary, which he/ she can earn anywhere else. Fixing responsibility is very difficult in such cases. ”M. SrinivasCPI(M) city secretary

GHMC staff responsible for the scam have been dismissed, and action has been recommended against those responsible in Mee Seva centres. However, a notable fact is that all of them are under outsourcing contracts and do not stand to lose much.

“Outsourcing as a model of employment that leaves room for many more such irregularities at several places in the governance. If caught, the employee loses around ₹10,000 per month of salary, which he/ she can earn anywhere else. Fixing responsibility is very difficult in such cases. As long as the government ignores this elephant in the room, there is always scope for more such scams,” says CPI(M) city secretary M. Srinivas.

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