Government preparing to call tender for its national ID card programmeAlthough plans to collect details of citizens have hit a snag, officials still plan to issue cards to those whose details have already been collected.
Prithvi Man Shrestha
The government is preparing to issue a tender for the print and supply of national identity cards.
Even though the target of distributing national ID cards to at least 10 million people in the next fiscal year has hit a snag due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government still plans to issue the cards to those people whose details have already been collected.
“We are currently preparing a bid document for international tender,” said Jitendra Basnet, director general at the Department of National ID and Civil Registration. “We will issue the bid notice in less than three months.”
Basnet added the department had not yet decided the number of ID cards it would be issuing since its earlier target was compromised by the pandemic. “Our first priority is to collect the information about the citizens and then go to the ID card printing process,” he said.
The government plans to introduce national ID cards with personal and biometric details of citizens with unique identification numbers. The card is to become a key basis for the delivery of various government services and replace the existing citizenship card.
The biometric smart card, according to the department, will have multiple applications and can be read by officials using highly secure terminals.
Plans to collect personal details including biometric information of citizens took a hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The department halted its programme of collecting personal details of citizens in the districts like Lalitpur, Jhapa and Kanchanpur from mid-October.
“As Kathmandu Valley has emerged as a coronavirus hotspot, the task has been halted for now,” said Lalitkumar Basnet, spokesperson at District Administration Office, Lalitpur.
The programme has also faced a setback in districts outside Kathmandu Valley, such as Chitwan and Sankhuwashbha.
In Chitwan, the local governments have halted the data collection works because of the coronavirus transmission risk.
Thakur Prasad Dhakal, mayor of Madi Municipality in Chitwan, told the Post that his office asked the District Administration Office, Chitwan, to postpone the programme because the fingerprint and face biometric technologies were not safe amid the Covid-19 crisis. “As per our request, the Chief District Officer has postponed the data collection work for at least another two months,” Dhakal said.
The department officials also admit the risk of the coronavirus transmission while collecting biometric data, something it had not anticipated because the national ID card was launched before the Covid-19 crisis.
Earlier, the department had planned to start the data collection programme from densely populated areas. But now it has decided to run the programme from sparsely populated hill districts.
“We have selected some new districts including Gulmi, Okhaldhunga, Udayapur and Dedeldhura and two other districts from Gandaki Province for our first phase of data collection programme,” said Basnet.
These districts were picked based on their low coronavirus infection rates.
Basnet said their earlier target of collecting personal details of 10 million people in 38 districts in the current fiscal year was undermined by the pandemic which, according to the government, has killed 920 people and infected 168,235 people as of Friday.
The government had piloted the national ID card project two years ago. Around 117,000 people received their ID cards under the pilot programme.
In November 2018, Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa had inaugurated the distribution of national ID cards project in Panchthar district by handing over the first ever identity card to 101-year-old Bhagawati Devi Bhandari of Phidim Municipality-4.