Mumbai: For 4 years, parents are trying to prove she is a girl
You can download the MCGM mobile application and pay your water bills on the go in a few seconds, but try getting the civic body to rectify an error as humungous as getting your child’s sex wrong, and you’ll find yourself waiting for years. According to the birth certificate issued to her by the BMC, Misba Sayyed, a giggling, happy five-year-old girl, is Misbha Sayyed, a boy.
Misba’s parents have been trying since 2010 to get the BMC to issue a fresh certificate correcting both the spelling error and her gender, but their four-year struggle, which involved a lot of running from pillar to post, has been in vain. Misba’s father, a tailor, told mid-day that they need the correct birth certificate by next month, or her education may be in peril.
Million-dollar smile: Akbar Sayyed with little Misba. Pic/Khushnum Bhandari
Misba was born in July 2009 at the BMC-run Sion Hospital to Akbar and Rizwana Sayyed, a tailor and housewife respectively. The Sayyeds applied for her birth certificate in early 2010 and, despite Rizwana’s discharge card from Sion Hospital clearly stating that she had given birth to a girl, the birth certificate issued to them by the BMC ward office certified that she was a boy and also got her name wrong.
Akbar, who lived in a joint family in Khar (East) then, went to their local ward office, H-East (Santacruz) and informed them about the errors. He was told by BMC officials that rectifying such errors usually takes a maximum of 10 days and was asked to get a particular document from Sion Hospital, which is part of the record of births that each civic-run hospital sends to the BMC every day.
Little did Akbar know that he was entering a living nightmare that is continuing even four years hence. Akbar involved his brother and mother in the process and, after making a few rounds of Sion Hospital, they managed to get the required document by mid-2010. Akbar went to the H-East ward office with the document and was told by officials that they would have to look up the records and he should check back in some time.
Various members of the Sayyed family then began making rounds of the H-East ward office every couple of weeks, but were told each time that the hunt for Misba’s birth record was still on. Months rolled by, and Akbar claims that while the ward officials got ruder each time, the answer was essentially the same.
Towards the end of 2010, the answer finally changed, but for the worse. Akbar was told by the H-East ward office that they had no record of Misba’s birth certificate being issued by them and that he should check with the F-North (Matunga) ward office, which has jurisdiction over Sion Hospital, where Misba was born.
In early 2011, Akbar’s mother passed away and the family spent nearly a year in mourning, during which they could not follow up on the birth certificate. In early 2012, however, when Misba was about to turn three, they took up the issue again, as they realised that the birth certificate would be crucial to get her admitted in a school.
Acting on the H-East ward office’s directions, Akbar who had to do the running around alone now, since his brother also had some problems approached the F-North office in Matunga in 2012. After allegedly making him wait for hours during each visit, officials told him to go to the H-East ward office, claiming that the birth certificate was issued from there.
An exasperated Akbar told the officials that the H-East office had sent him to the F-North office and he was then told to get the document from Sion Hospital. He gave them the document he had received from the hospital two years back and they asked him to check back later.
“I made a fresh application in the F-North ward office in 2012, but every time I went there I was made to wait for hours and then rudely told that the officer-in-charge was unavailable and I should come back later and try my luck. I even approached BMC corporators who put me in touch with officials at the ward level, but to no avail,” Akbar told mid-day.
“I have now been visiting ward offices for four years. They made me run around before accepting the correction application claiming that the hospital records were wrong. Only when I got the documents from the hospital did the officials at the ward office accept their mistake.
In 2012, someone at the F-North office finally said they had found Misba’s register number (FN/23189/MOH/02/11/12) and asked me to come to collect the changed certificate, but when I went again no one helped me to get the problem fixed. It has been two years since then but there is no solution in sight,” he added.
Education at stake
Akbar said Misba was lucky to have been admitted to the English-medium school that she is studying in on the basis of her birth documents from Sion Hospital, but the school has made it clear that she may not get admitted to Std II next year if they don’t submit the birth certificate.
“The school has told us that they need the birth certificate by next month or they may not be able to let her study there. My daughter goes to Std II next year and no school will admit her without a birth certificate. I can’t believe that the BMC has put her education in peril by refusing to rectify a simple mistake for four years,” said Akbar.
Nitai Mehta, Founder of NGO Praja Foundation, said, “This is not done at all and I feel sad both for the girl and her parents, and the pathetic state of the BMC. How difficult is it to verify the details and rectify such a simple yet glaring error? Such cases highlight the need for the Right to Service Act’s implementation so that public servants can be held responsible.”
The other side
An official from the H-East ward office’s health department said, “I checked all the records but could not find any when Akbar came to me recently and said he had been sent by a politician. I directed him to F-North ward office as the child was born in Sion Hospital, which is in that ward’s jurisdiction, and her records must have gone there.”
BMC Executive Health Officer Padmaja Keskar said, “I am not aware of this case, but I will ask the officer in charge to look into the matter and get the problem solved as per procedure.” When mid-day called the Ward Officer of F-North ward office, Alka Sasane, she said she was on leave and hung up.