Move to do away with printing the last page dropped too, so passport will still serve as document for ‘address proof’.
New Delhi: After objections raised in many quarters, including by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, the external affairs ministry on Tuesday did a complete volte-face and decided to continue printing the last page of passports while dropping the plan to issue separate orange-coloured passports to citizens with ECR (Emigration Check Required) status, that is mostly required by less-skilled workers. The last page of the passport contains “information such the name of the father, mother, spouse, address, Emigration Check Required (ECR) and old passport number, with date and place of issue of the holder of the passport”.
Mr Gandhi had opposed the plan to issue separate orange-coloured passports to citizens with ECR status, saying that it shows the BJP’s “discriminatory mindset” and had accused the government of treating India’s migrant workers as “second class citizens”. As the last page also contains the address of the holder, Tuesday’s decision means the passport can continue to serve as an address-proof document, which has allayed the fears of some after the earlier decision. The rollback was justified by the MEA on the grounds that it had received several representations against the earlier two decisions. The volte face has, though, raised questions on why the step was taken earlier without considering its implications.
The MEA had earlier this month announced the two decisions that were rolled back on Tuesday. The earlier decision not to print the last page was taken after the MEA accepted the recommendations of a three-member committee comprising its officials and those of the women and child development ministry that had been set up “to examine various issues pertaining to passport applications where the mother/child had insisted that the name of the father should not be mentioned in the passport and also relating to passport issues to children with single parent and to adopted children”. The MEA also said it had taken the earlier decision to issue a passport “with orange-colour jacket to passport holders with ECR status, with a view to help and assist them on priority basis”.
In a statement on Tuesday , the MEA said: “At a meeting chaired by Sushma Swaraj, external affairs minister, on 29th January 2018, in the presence of Gen. V.K. Singh (Retd), minister of state for external affairs, the decision of the MEA on both these issues was reviewed in the light of these representations. 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-coloured jacket to ECR passport holders.”
The three-member committee comprising officials of the MEA and the women and child development ministry had recommended that the MEA “should explore the possibility of doing away with the printing of information contained in the passport booklet such as names of father/legal guardian, mother, spouse, and address contained in the last page of the passport”.