Facing criticism over his order asking Delhi citizens to carry all the time an identity card to show proof of residence, the capital's top official yesterday clarified that this will not be mandatory and said that no one will not be harassed on any count.
Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna, however, maintained that people would have to carry identity proof on high-security occasions like the Republic Day and the Independence Day.
"The message has been misunderstood and I had never said that carrying ID proof would be made mandatory. I never intended or suggested that not carrying photo-identity cards would be treated as offence and that people would be treated as culprits," Khanna told a press conference.
"I had only instructed the Delhi Police commissioner to increase surveillance to screen persons arousing suspicion due to enhanced terror threats. We have an open society and no one would be put to unwanted discomfort," he added.
On January 4, Khanna had directed Delhi Police to begin random checks from Jan 15 and said it was one way to keep a check on terror suspects and anti-social elements. He had said that if any individual failed to produce proof of residence, adequate action would be taken against him or her.
But Khanna's ambitious plan failed to find support among political parties. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar shot off a strong letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemning Khanna's proposal.
"I suspect that failures on the police and intelligence fronts are being covered up in the name of security and there is an attempt to turn Delhi into a police state," Nitish Kumar said. "No one can claim exclusive jurisdiction over Delhi."
Yesterday, Manmohan Singh told reporters at Rashtrapati Bhavan: "I do not want to go into the motives. If there are any practical problems [about ID cards], we will resolve them."
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, upset because Khanna had not consulted her, too was relieved after his clarification. "It is a good move," said Dikshit.
Earlier, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) president J.P. Aggarwal termed the proposed move "deplorable" saying it would only lead to corruption and harassment of citizens.
Aggarwal said that most people residing in the capital were labourers who live in slum clusters and resettlement colonies and most do not have photo identity cards or any identity proof.
Demanding the immediate withdrawal of the new move, P.M.S. Grewal, the Delhi state committee secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said: "It is a licence for harassment of ordinary citizens."
Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Harsh Vardhan too slammed Khanna. "The whole idea to make identity proof compulsory is impractical and impossible to execute effectively."