The decision by the Indian government to issue passports in two colors – blue and orange – and leave the address page of the document blank has evoked mixed reactions among the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) community.
What are the changes
As per the new rules, Indians who require emigration clearance (ECR) – those who have not passed 10th grade – will be issued orange passports, while those who do not need emigration clearance (ECNR), will continue with the blue ones.
According to government, the color coding would help officials easily identify and protect labourers who have not completed Grade 10 and could be duped by unscrupulous agents.
The government has also decided to keep the last page of the passport blank in accordance with the recommendations of a committee set up to look into requests by single mothers that the name of the father not be mentioned in their child’s passport.
The supporters of the decision advocate that removing address would also help in protecting the privacy of the passport holder.
Presently, the last page of an Indian passport lists the names of father/legal guardian, mother, spouse and permanent address.
Why the decision is challenged
While the government claims that the new orange passports are expected to protect vulnerable laborers from exploitation abroad, most Indian workers say the plan is “unfair and discriminatory”.
They feel that holding an orange colour passport would brand them as less educated or even illiterate. This may lead to further exploitation and duping.
Another reason why many NRIs object to the decision is that, with the last page blank, passports will cease to be proof of valid address.
With NRIs not being eligible for the Aadhaar identity cards, they are worried that they will be left with no official document to prove their permanent address and relationships with parents and spouse that are endorsed on the last page.
For NRIs in the gulf region, permanent address and parents names as required on several occasions like availing bank loans, credit cards, applying for family visit visa etc. The fact that a large number of adults do not have birth certificate will be complicate the issue further.
The new passport will be applicable only to renewals and after the India Security Press, Nashik, is ready with the printing. Till then, blue passports with the last page for both ECR and non-ECR categories will remain in circulation.
It is pertinent to mention here that ECR passport holders who have stayed abroad for more than three years have the option of changing to ECNR category. You can read more about it here.
Published on 22 January 2018