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Do we really need a verified PROOF OF ADDRESS?

Address Proof is an important document for every citizen of India. It is a mandatory document for obtaining any Government Id proof or availing any other services like Passport, Voter Card, Gas Connection, Telephone Bills etc. We are all well acknowledged with the importance of Proof of Address in India.

We are in a time when movement of people from one place to another is common and being citizens of India we can stay anywhere in the country, mobility of people from one place to another has increased significantly. However it is very difficult to get a verified government address proof every time in case a citizen shifts form one part of country to another.

Everyone who has moved out or shifted from any part of the country has faced such problems of getting a valid address proof. However the major concern which is overlooked is not how to obtain these address proofs, rather the much bigger concern is WHY IS ADDRESS PROOF NEEDED AT ALL? Can’t there be a universal government verified proof that can be used in various parts of the country, why a person has to provide the address proof of the current address.

Government officials claim that address verifications reduced crimes and fraudant activities. Is having a verified address any guarantee that someone will not commit a crime? Clearly not. Is it the case crimes are committed only by people without a verifiable address? Again, the answer is in the negative. So, why insist on everyone having some verified address? You could argue, it makes it easier to trace a criminal, in case you have his original address. Police records are full of people who have gone missing and are untraceable, in spite of having a bona fide address to begin with.

It makes sense to ask for an address if the addressee has some specific use from providing that address. But when there is no need why one does has to provide such address. In some cases, verified address proof is simply not a necessity like why do banks need proof as to where an account-holder lives, over and above the account-holder’s own claim? In all bona fide cases, the vast majority, the account-holder wants the bank to send him statements and cheque books to an address where he would receive them. It may be possible that the person doesn’t have a government verified address proof for his current address. Why can’t he change the address without getting verified if one holds a verified identity proof?

A passport is proof of identity, citizenship and address. Why should it ask for permanent address? In the new world of increasing urbanization, migration within the country and abroad, what sense does a permanent address make? What about residents of Delhi, whose parents hail from some remote village in, say, Jharkhand, but have always lived in a rented accommodation in their adopted city? What is their permanent address? Do such people have no right to have a passport? Should they write down some ancestral place in Jharkhand whose current occupants are probably unaware of their existence? Should they claim a rented place as their permanent residence?

What about the three crore-odd households who have no homes of their own anywhere on the planet? Don’t their 15 crore individuals have a right to be called Indians and be entitled to a passport, bank account and other citizen amenities and rights?

It is possible to abandon proof of address altogether and accept an applicant’s submission as authentic. Biometric tags and de-duplication software that works across multiple databases – driving licenses, hospital records, school and college registers, insurance and bank accounts – would identify cases that call for further verification.

Sure, this means a lot of computerization. So what? Trust everyone’s claimed address, verify those that give cause for doubt. This is integral to inclusive growth.

In the new world of increasing urbanization, migration within the country and abroad, what sense does a permanent address make? Isintead the right time when some of government rules needs modification with the increasing technology and with India moving towards Digital India

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