The Election Commission is struggling to check forgeries of National Identity Cards while it suspects that a group of voter registration officers and data entry operators are involved in the scam.
Several probe teams formed on various occasions have found that people are forging NIDs to gain illegal benefits, including land embezzlement, securing government jobs, getting different allowances and to dodge criminal records, said Election Commission officials.
They said that people manage to collect necessary documents, including birth registration certificate, citizenship certificate, academic certificate and other papers, through forgery to register as voters as well as get the NIDs.
When addressing a virtual press conference, EC’s National Identity Card Wing director general Saidul Islam said that the wing struggling to check irregularities was going to include some more features in the process of NID registration in the face of NID forgery allegations.
He said that the commission is going to sue 937 people for taking attempts to obtain duel national identity cards as it was found that the people committed the offence with bad intention.
‘Total 937 people with fake NIDs would be prosecuted by the concerned upazila or thana election officers gradually,’ EC National Identity Card Wing director general Saidul Islam said at the press conference.
The wing had detected 2.7 lakh dual NIDs and is now scrutinising the reason behind second time enrolment, he said.
‘We feel that not all of them had bad intentions when applying for the second NID. Some youths may have approached for the second time out of curiosities, while misunderstanding led others to secure the second NID,’ he added.
He said that the commission was drawing up plans to make the NID server security system stronger to check forgery.
The commission is planning to introduce automated biometric identification system instead automated fingerprint identification system, he added.
He said that ABIS will check fingerprints, iris and photos while AFIS only check fingerprints.
The commission formed 10 teams to conduct sudden visits to upazila and thana election offices to check NID forgery, he said.
The NID wing recently suspended two data entry operators for their alleged link to NID forgery, he said.
According to EC, the commission suspended and blacklisted 39 people for their involvement in NID forgery.
Of them, two technical experts were suspended in 2013, an assistant director and three technical experts were suspended in 2014, nine data entry operators were suspended in 2016, eight data entry operators were suspended in 2017, one technical expert and two data entry operators were suspended in 2018, one technical expert, eight data entry operators and a messenger were suspended in 2019 and three data entry operators were suspended in 2020.
Saidul said, ‘As the NID forgery is taking place even after such drastic measures, now the commission is planning to bring all election offices under the surveillance of closed-circuit cameras, besides enhancing monitoring by intelligence.’
The dual voter enrolment came into discussion after an Anti-Corruption Commission inquiry found dual NID of controversial healthcare firm JKG healthcare chairman Sabrina Chowdhury.
Following the findings, EC prosecuted Sabrina and blocked both of her NIDs.
Saidul said that the commission also blocked six people for forging NIDs to occupy some properties in Kushtia.
On September 13, police arrested five members of a gang, who helped in getting bank loans by making fake NIDs, from the city’s Mirpur area.
The arrested are Md Sumon Parvez, Md Majid, Siddharth Shankar Sutradhar, Md Anwarul Islam and Md Abdullah Al Mamun.
Twelve dual, fake and duplicate NID cards were recovered from their possessions.
Deputy commissioner (media) Walid Hossain said Sumon and Majid used to help loan defaulters to apply for loan using fake NIDs and they usually take Tk 80,000 to Tk 1 lakh from each for making a fake NID card.
Besides, they also ask their clients to pay 10 per cent of the total loan after sanction of the loan amount from banks. A fake NID card is made only after they have agreed to such conditions.
Their other accomplices — Siddhartha Shankar Sutradhar and Md Anwarul Islam used to make fake identity cards. They used to charge Tk 35,000 to Tk 40,000 for each fake NID card, he said.
As Siddharth Shankar Sutradhar and Anwarul Islam worked as data entry operators in Khilgaon and Gulshan offices under the Election Commission’s outsourcing company E-Zone, they could easily create fake NID cards using the software of the election office, Walid Hossain added.
Last year, a good number of EC employees of its Chattogram office were arrested and suspended for their alleged involvement in issuing NIDs to some Rohingya people.
On Thursday’s press conference, NID wing DG Saidul also said that 738 Bangladeshi expatriate in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and the United States applied for NIDs.
He said that the commission is planning to fix a fee for providing NIDs to non-residential Bangladeshis, and added that the applications of the 738 people had already been forwarded to upazila election offices for necessary verification.