Indian fishermen to sail with tamper-proof I-cards

January 8th, 2009 - 3:44 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 8 (IANS) Once bitten, twice shy. Tamper-proof, multipurpose identity cards will be provided to fishermen and others who regularly venture into the sea to plug security loopholes, with the terrorists who attacked Mumbai having sneaked into Indian waters with fake papers.”After the Mumbai terror attack, a decision has been taken in principle to provide smart cards to fishermen and others who live along the coast line and venture into the sea for a living,” a home ministry official told IANS.

The smart cards will carry information like name, sex, date of birth and present residential address, photograph, fingerprints and details of PAN cards and driving licences. It will almost be impossible to alter details in the card or make a replica.

The cards will only be issued from New Delhi after detailed scrutiny. Once these smart cards are issued to people, card readers would be made available to local administrations and security agencies.

“These cards are tamper-proof and information embedded inside the electromagnetic chips cannot be altered. The modalities of implementation of the scheme are being worked out among the ministries and it will take a few months before the cards are distributed to people,” the official, who did not want his identity to be revealed, added.

He said such proposals had been there in the past but a decision to launch the scheme came only after the Mumbai terror attack.

In November last year, 10 heavily armed terrorists who India says came from Pakistan sailed into Indian waters by giving the slip to Coast Guard officials with the help of fake identity cards.

The terrorists killed over 170 people in their audacious attack that started Nov 26 and lasted 60 hours. Nine of them were gunned down. The one captured alive told interrogators that they used fake identity papers to enter Indian territory.

Sources in the home ministry said the scheme would first be launched in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

“It will certainly help in identifying those entering Indian waters, especially from Pakistan. Often there have been many instances where people are caught entering Indian terrority with fake identity cards,” the official said.

“Sometimes it becomes very difficult to differentiate between Indian and Pakistani fishermen.”

India has a coastline of 7,517 km and has 13 coastal states bound by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the west, and the Bay of Bengal on the east. For some time now, intelligence agencies have warned of possible terror attacks via the sea where security is inadequate.

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