Govt drops plan to issue orange passports to non-matriculates

To continue with practice of printing last page too

Govt drops plan to issue orange passports to non-matriculates

The government on Tuesday dropped its plan to issue passports with orange jackets to non-matriculates after it was denounced as discriminatory by the Opposition parties.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) withdrew its decision to issue orange passports to non-matriculates just a day after the Kerala High Court admitted a writ petition challenging the move and issued a notice to the Union government. The MEA also rolled back its decision to stop printing the last page of passports issued to all citizens of the country.

The BJP-led government had come under attack from the Opposition after the MEA decided to issue orange passports to non-matriculates.

The decision to drop both the plans was taken at a meeting chaired by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday. V K Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs, was also present at the meeting.

Raveesh Kumar, MEA spokesperson, however, made it public on Tuesday.

"After comprehensive discussions with the various stakeholders, the MEA has decided to continue with the current practice of printing the last page of the passport and not to issue a separate passport with orange colour jacket to ECR (Emigration Check Required) passport holders," said Kumar.

He said the MEA had received several individual and collective representations requesting to reconsider the two decisions. Kumar said that both the decisions had been reviewed at the meeting held on Monday.

An 'Emigration Check Required' stamp has so far been affixed to the passport issued to a non-matriculate workers going to certain countries in search of livelihood. The MEA, however, earlier this month had decided to issue orange passports to ECR category travellers. It had stated that the move had been aimed at helping and assisting them "on priority basis".

'Discriminatory'

Congress President Rahul Gandhi had attacked the Modi government over the decision. "Treating India's migrant workers like second class citizens is completely unacceptable. This action demonstrates BJP's discriminatory mindset," he had tweeted.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said that it amounted to violation of the fundamental right to equality guaranteed to a citizen by the Constitution of India. Dinesh Trivedi of the All India Trinamool Congress had said that the MEA plan went against human dignity and that it reminded him of the apartheid of South Africa.

A committee comprising officials of the MEA and the Ministry of Women and Child Development had been constituted to look into the  issues related to passport applications, where mother or child had insisted that the name of the father should not be mentioned in the travel document. The committee also  studied issues related to passport granted to children with single parent or to adopted children. The committee had asked the MEA to see if it could  stop printing the last page of the passport, which contained information such as names of father or legal guardian, mother, spouse, and address. Kumar had earlier said that the recommendation of the committee was accepted by the MEA.

But Indian expatriates in Saudi Arabia and other gulf nations expressed apprehensions that the decision to stop printing the last pages of the passports would put them in trouble.

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