A few years ago I conducted a random poll in the class I was teaching at the Post Graduate level. I asked the students about their dates of birth. The question was simple but off-beat, whether their dates of birth have been forged. First of all I had to take them into confidence by assuring that all the information given will be kept within the classroom and their answers will in no way create any kind of prejudice against them. Moreover, the responses will not secure any kind of raise or decline in marks. After that I asked students (the number of students present in the class was about 50) how many students had their real dates of birth on the official documents. More than half of the class did not raise their hands. So there were about 25-30 students who had their dates of birth forged, to use the legal language. Recently, I re-conducted the poll after a gap of five years, the results were not different. The confessional moment of the students needed to be congratulated, which I did because normally it is hard for anyone to speak truth in public, let alone about a matter which is a sweet but often irritating secret.
Why are dates of birth changed?
I did not need a classroom survey to find out that the dates of birth are changed. It is a well-known but less discussed fact of our society, in fact of most third world societies. It is a common observation which barely demands formal validation. Consequently, it hardly creates any shock or surprise because forgery is so common that exceptions are abnormal entities. Which makes me wonder about the notifications on social networking sites about date of birth and the subsequent wishes, and then the exclamatory thanks from the persons concerned. A counterfeit comedy goes on.
Generally, a date of birth is an important marker of life. It marks ones entry into this mortal world. All subsequent events and incidents in life, all official documents record this date as a critical reference point. One enters into different sectors and professions in life with calculations from the date of birth. The modern institutions and rules and regulations are vitally linked to the age based on the Birth Certificate. So you cannot become President of India if you have not yet turned thirty five. While IQ and intuition are also important and cherished qualities of a human being but age is still connected with experience and maturity. And when this cardinal event of life is changed we enter a world of deception, a guilt feeling and into a universe of endless lies, all made with the fond belief that it is all harmless. Logically, it is not possible to build a good, systematic and well-behaved society in which a mass of people have forged their entry into the world. As a slight digression think of all the questionnaires and surveys done, in which the respondent's age is associated with his response. What will be the nature and implications of the results drawn based on a fake document?! Lies get circulated endlessly, and, perhaps, happily and mindlessly.
This circulation of forgery is connected with parents. Mostly, it is the parents in collaboration with other officials that the dates are forged with the expectation of garnering of a certain kind of status and privileges of different kinds. With diminishing job prospects at an earlier age, and the consequent late marriages, the forging of birth certificates comes instinctively. In an age, in which the body is more important than the spirit, it is logical that looking younger becomes a compulsion. So if you look old but birth certificate shows younger age, you can blame it on adulterated food, and general "tension" in society. On top of that if there are some Government financial schemes for boys and girls of certain age then not changing the date of birth becomes a family calamity. Entire list of officials falls in line until a convenient date is obtained for the child (like your "special" mobile number or car number): the doctor, revenue officials and certificate issuing authority.
The law about this case is as it is about the other cases. It is deaf to such "comical" errors. Or they are considered unintentional. The blame diverted to some error of clerk. All kinds of blinders are dropped to help the forgerer. Because the judge is not a holy cow. He has similar skeletons in his cupboard. When the law is quiet as a nun about the conversion of Above Poverty Line families into Below Poverty Line ones, why should it be difficult to alter the Birth Certificates after all unlike the former there is no urgent and immediate benefit from inserting some number? The legal machinery generally comes into action when there is a complaint from one who feels that someone's date of birth comes in the way of his special interests like promotion in the job. Otherwise, there is a silent consensus that forgery is not a big deal, and we should learn to live with it, and it has been going on ever since the British forged the dates of birth of India and Pakistan, or more specifically, ever since the date of birth of modern Kashmir was forged in the Instrument of Accession. Our collective political birth is forged, no matter if personal births are also tampered with. The forgery is so rampant that it would be better to give the parents a multiple choice of dates to select from.
Life based on lie
The West has long given up on such forgeries. Except for a few in the higher circles, and in some professions, the rest have concretised a trust society. Where it is given that what is on the page is for the most case is genuine and authentic. However, in our case we lay the foundation of our life on a lie, and end up creating a chain of lies, down to the day good souls fill up Hajj forms. Let us return to the basic document and hold some truthful light on our birth certificates, and not fool others into believing your age, which it is not.