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Monday, 12 February 2018

Why passport changes in India are unnecessary; colour coding discriminatory even

The changes that to the passport that the government is proposing are, confusing, at best, and at the worst, misguided and even discriminatory. One of the changes being suggested is that the passport’s last page, that has details like the holder’s address, her/his parents’ name, etc, will be dropped. The reason forwarded, as per a press note from the ministry of external affairs (MEA), is that the it is being done to keep up with changed and emerging social norms. The press note says a committee of government officials, examining instances from the past in which the applicant had either insisted that the name of the father should not be mentioned in his/her passport or in her child’s passport, had suggested dropping the page, and the recommendation was accepted. This also resolves the issue of children of single parents applying for passports.

The intention is laudable. However, as the e-form for passport application—last updated on December 15, 2017—shows, the government is going to collect these particulars nevertheless. And this not just for passports, but for many other government documents.
The logic therefore is unclear. Even if the form is modified on a later date, those who apply in the interim must submit these details. In any case, the decision to drop the page summarily seems confusing since the passport application form clearly states that mentioning only one, from a choice of father’s/mother’s/legal guardian’s name, is necessary. What’s worse, the government is planning to colour-code passports, with blue passports for those who don’t need emigration clearance and orange for the ‘emigration check required’ (ECR) grouping.
The idea, as per the government, is to identify emigrating labourers faster to be able to better protect them from exploitation when they take up jobs outside India. As per the Emigration Act, certain holders of Indian passports—in the current context, those who are not educated till the 10th standard—must get emigration clearance. Again, the intent is laudable. But, it will also leave such passport-holders vulnerable to discrimination—by airlines, service providers at airports and abroad, too. The passport is universally recognised as certifying citizenship of a country. It should not make a person feel like a second-class citizen.
To Read the News in Full 22/01/18 Financial Express
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