The government’s decision to ease the rules for applying for a passport was long overdue. Apart from reducing the paperwork involved, many of the amendments to the Passport Rules are in step with changes in society: for example, the provision that the name of only one parent need be there, which makes sense given the number of single parents is only going up.
The new norms also make it easier for those who have adopted orphans or have children out of wedlock to provide proof of age, which is a major pain point. The mandatory requirement of a birth certificate has been done away with; certificates from heads of orphanages will do. A registered adoption certificate is not needed if it was done within the country. There’s no need for marriage certificates for couples either. Government servants too can submit self-declarations in certain cases. In fact, the number of annexures prescribed with the Passport Rules 1980 has been reduced from 15 to 9. It’s clear that a conscious effort has been made to make the process more sensitive to the needs of women and children and to generally streamline it. This is certainly welcome and in tune with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s professed aim of ensuring minimum government, maximum governance.
However, there are some curious changes too. Now sants and sadhus can enter the names of their gurus instead of those of their parents – the logic is that these people have renounced the world and have no ties with their birth families. But how do you decide who is a sant? Can anyone just claim he or she is one and then name someone else as the guru? And what about fakirs? Does this apply to them too? And if sants and sadhus anyway have to produce one other document, such as an Aadhar card, to corroborate their identity, then why have this proviso at all? Even if the government limits it to those who belong to recognised akharas or sects, doesn’t the facility leave too many loopholes that can be exploited to create fake identities? Are people who are spiritually inclined or claim to be so, exempt from the rules and regulations that apply to other people. This could also mean that clergy or gurus from other faiths will also demand similar concessions. This would be really opening a can of worms. The mere act of renouncing one’s parents to embrace a spiritual path does not hold good in the eyes of the law. The government needs to better think through changes to rules and procedures to ensure efforts aimed at improving things do not have the opposite effect.