Registration of vital events

The coverage of vital events in India is far from satisfactory
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The registration of vital events is an important source of population information or statistics. It is hence very pertinent to throw light on the terms such as ‘‘vital events’’, ‘‘vital statistics’’ and ‘‘vital records’’. When a person enters the world (by birth) and when a person leaves (by death) we call them vital events.

These events showcase the beginning and the end of a person’s life. From the demographic standpoint, even fetal death is regarded as a vital event. During one’s life span from birth to death, an individual may undergo a change in his civil conditions, that is to say, he/she may get married or may be adopted.

Such events which involve changes in the civil status of a person are also considered vital events. Vital records are those records which are concerned with vital events such as births, marriages, divorces etc. The persons concerned or linked to the appropriate authorities encompass the task of reporting or recording vital events.

The classic examples are that of a parent reporting the birth or death in the family. Events like births, deaths etc., occur continuously in any society which is why such vital events are recorded continually.

The system under which recording or registration of vital events take place is known as the vital registration system. The registered vital events are compiled and the resulting statistics are called vital statistics.

The vital registration system which is also called Civil Registration System is a very significant tool for analysing the population dynamics.

As far as Civil Registration System (CRS) in India is concerned, it is the unified process of continuous, permanent and compulsory recording of the vital events (births, deaths, etc.) and attributes thereof. For a country like India, the requirement of an effective and systematic Civil Registration System is very important since it has significant economic, administrative and statistical uses.

The data generated through Vital Registration System in India serves as the cornerstone of Public Health System by offering different important/vital statistics such as birth rate, death rate, infant mortality rate, sex ratio etc.

The vital registration system which is almost perfect in developed countries such as the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, France, Japan etc. In many developing parts of the world -including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan - the vital registration systems are far from perfection. In these countries we lack a proper recording or registration of vital events. A sizeable number of births and deaths in these countries are not reported; hence the records are incomplete and imperfect.

The vital registration system if taken for granted can lead to absence of multiple vital statistics for the country. As we know, we have been struggling with COVID-19 for the last two years and the vital event of death due to COVID-19 has gained momentum with every passing day. The death certificate normally contains information on the cause of death.

An analysis of the causes of death obtained from registered records in general and vital registration systems in particular has always contributed to the advancement of the medical science and health system. Likewise, an analysis of the cause of death due to COVID-19 (coronavirus) obtained from registered records of the COVID-19 deaths will contribute to the development of medical sciences in contemporary times.

We can also assess the health condition of a society from such analysis. In fact, it may be stated that, in the past, problems of preventive medicine were identified mainly through an analysis of death statistics. COVID-19 death statistics now-a-days is therefore very significant.

Although any failure to register births and deaths is highly punishable by law, the coverage of registration of vital events in India is far from satisfactory. COVID-19 death is also a vital event but because of under-reporting, the rates derived from registered COVID-19 death present a much distorted picture.

The extent of non-reporting of vital events in general and death due to COVID-19 in particular is found to be very high in backward rural areas. The main causes for such deficiency in the Indian Vital Registration Statistics are mass illiteracy, superstitious beliefs, and the rural character of the population.

The importance of the registration of vital events is neither realised by the masses nor by the registering authorities at the local level. For a large chunk of Indian people, few occasions arise when birth and death certificates are required. Hence, it is not surprising that they do not appreciate the need and importance of registering vital events.

Dr. Binish Qadri Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, University of Kashmir.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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