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Old birth and death records find new room

His name and personal details may not ring a bell but Salil holds a distinction to his credit. The oldest birth record found with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is of this person.

Written by Rohinee Singh | New Delhi |
March 30, 2009 3:10:29 am

MCD’s record room houses a vast collection of century-old files with entries in Urdu

Name: Salil

Date of Birth: February 23,1879
Parents: Azima Begum and Shamim Khan
Address: Nabi Karim,Chandni Chowk

His name and personal details may not ring a bell but Salil holds a distinction to his credit. The oldest birth record found with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is of this person.

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Another name on the same page of the file preserved in the MCD’s record room is of Bharti,born to Tek Ram and Shanti Devi of Sita Ram Bazar. As many as 27 more people were born on that day. The MCD has started compiling the old records of births and deaths registered in Delhi.

It managed to dig out files from the City Zone (Chandni Chowk area) and Karol Bagh Zone offices last year. Aged over a hundred years old,these files are written in Urdu with a quill and ink. According to officials,it was in 1879 when the British rulers started registering births and deaths in Delhi.

The exercise of assembling the old records has been on since 2005. Though the corporation has no count on the number of births and deaths available with it,the record room at the MCD’s Rajpur Road office has more than 130 iron cupboards holding these old files in various volumes. The room has all the records till 1990.

Every cupboard has the details of the record pasted on its door. It does not take more than 10 minutes to find a specific file from the complete stock recorded zone wise,year wise and hospital wise. The birth and death records post 1990 can be found in the zonal offices.

“Till 1965,all birth and death records were written in Urdu on thick,handmade papers. At some places,however,Punjabi (Gurmukhi) was used. English was introduced only in the 1970s,” said R K Gupta,the only officer posted in the record room. Till the ’60s,the birth and death records were written by the local police station and panchayats.

“Before 2005,we did not have any collective record of the birth and deaths. The files were kept in the zonal offices and piles of them were being used as office furniture. That is when we realised there was a need to preserve the records,” said an MCD official.

“Earlier,hardly anybody bothered to have a birth certificate. But since the trend of visiting foreign countries has now increased,more and more people need their birth certificates for passport and other documents. It has become more important for us now to have the records in order,” the official adds. On an average,a hundred applications come to the record room for verification every day. From searching a file,to checking and verifying the records and then keeping the file back in its place,R K Gupta,the one-man army in the record room,does everything.

An overworked Gupta,however,does not complain. “If there are too many men in the record room,the chances of mismanagement and misuse of the records will increase. I don’t want to be held responsible for anything going wrong,” he says.

The MCD treasures these records. The room is always locked and even staffers are not allowed to enter without permission. “The record room is a very sensitive place. These records are precious. I cannot trust anyone,” says Gupta,who has been working with the MCD for the last 35 years.

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