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Musahar children deprived of education for lack of birth certificates

Musahar children deprived of education for lack of birth certificates

Bhunti Sadaya is 68 years old now. As someone from the Dalit community, she is eligible for a social security allowance from the age of 60. But her name isn’t enrolled for the scheme because she doesn’t have a birth registration and citizenship certificate.

Her mother Mugiya and father Madhuwa passed away when she was very young. As they didn’t have citizenship certificates, Bhunti also doesn’t have any documents. Bhunti’s husband Palta and their four sons, however, have citizenship by descent. But her daughter Bina hasn’t been able to get a citizenship certificate. Since Bina hasn’t been able to prepare birth registration certificates for her children, they are deprived of education as well as the child nutrition allowance.

“My daughter is living with her husband in Harinagara of Lahan-20. Officials are asking for my citizenship to make my daughter’s citizenship,” Bhunti said. Bhunti, however, possesses a voter’s ID card.

Dipin and Mamata Sadaya are also suffering from the administrative formalities. Since the couple doesn’t have citizenship certificates, their children Om (11), Prakash (9), Sita (6), and Gita (4) do not have birth registration certificates. “Although I furnish all the documents, they ask for my father’s citizenship. The process is too cumbersome. When can I become a citizen of this country?” Dipin questioned.

According to Dipin, officials have asked him to change his father’s photo in his citizenship certificate, stating that it’s not clear. “I went to the Area Administration Office in Lahan to change the photo, but they asked me to go to my village in Siraha,” Dipin said. “I don’t have that much money to visit government offices every day, and it's difficult for me as my father has physical disabilities.”

Dipin added that the future of their children appears bleak just because they don’t have citizenship certificates. “They say five-six people will have to be called to the ward office for a public inquiry, and that it would cost Rs 3,000-4,000. As our daily wage can only feed the family, we have stopped preparation to get citizenship certificates,” Mamata shared.

In another case, Asharam Sadaya and his wife Amrita haven’t been able to get a birth registration for their children Kiran (5), Raja (2), and one-month-old Rinku because Amrita doesn’t have a birth registration certificate. “The process is very complex. The ward office keeps asking for Amrita’s birth registration certificate. We can’t feed our family if we keep visiting the ward office everyday because we don’t have land or money,” Asharam said. “That is why we have stopped asking the ward office for the birth registration of our children.”

Amrita said she hasn’t been able to send her children to school due to the lack of a birth registration certificate. “The school asks for a birth registration certificate, but the ward office doesn’t provide us. It keeps asking for one document after another,” she added.

Not only these people, but almost all the households in the Musahar settlement in Lahan Municipality-14 do not have citizenship and birth registration certificates. Many of them even do not approach the concerned offices, thinking that it would cost a lot of time and money. As a result, most of the Musahar children have been deprived of school education.

“Many Dalit families have been deprived of government documents because of the troublesome process. A birth registration certificate should have been issued even if the father and mother don’t have a citizenship certificate provided that the applicant has a citizenship certificate. But it is not happening,” Dalit right activist Raj Kumar Paswan said. He said that Dalit children are deprived of education, health, and child nutrition allowances. “Even after providing all the required documents, the ward secretary does not listen,” he said, suggesting that the government take a mobile unit to the village to resolve the problem.

Ram Lakhan Sah, ward secretary of Lahan-14, said the online system doesn’t accept the application if all the documents are not furnished. “But we are preparing to hold a public inquiry in the settlement to facilitate birth registration even if parents don’t have a citizenship certificate,” he added. “But it is becoming difficult to facilitate those who have already reached old age.”

Chairman of Ward-14, Dhanik Lal Yadav, said the ward office has directed the ward secretary to facilitate the birth registration process. “It’s the ward secretary’s prerogative. We have requested him to provide the necessary facilitation as per the existing laws,” Yadav said. “If needed, I will participate in the public inquiry to facilitate them.”

What’s in the law?

Birth registration is the first proof of a person’s existence in the state. Therefore, birth registration is the basic and solid evidence to create a legal identity of a person in the state. Article 39 (1) of the Constitution of Nepal states that “every child shall have the right to be named and registered with his/her own identity”. However, the children of the Musahar settlement haven’t been able to enjoy this fundamental right. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, also states that the child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality, and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents. Similarly, Article 6 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, states that everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.