Refugees can work but can’t be in ‘sensitive businesses’, Centre asks states | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Refugees can work but can’t be in ‘sensitive businesses’, Centre asks states

The Centre may have opened India to persecuted religious minorities from neighbouring Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh but it does not intend lowering its guard.

india Updated: Aug 25, 2016 00:13 IST
Aloke Tikku
In recent years, India has seen an increase in the number of Hindu and Sikh refugees, especially from Pakistan and Afghanistan, alleging religious persecution.
In recent years, India has seen an increase in the number of Hindu and Sikh refugees, especially from Pakistan and Afghanistan, alleging religious persecution. (Representative image)

The Centre may have opened India to persecuted religious minorities from neighbouring Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh but it does not intend lowering its guard.

Asking states to extend all facilities to them, the home ministry has said the refugees should not be allowed into restricted areas or businesses considered sensitive.

Any activity involving mobile handsets, SIM cards and laptops is prohibited. The migrants also can’t be in security business that involves information technology or cyber space, a recent home ministry letter says.

“They should not be permitted to undertake self-employment/business in any contractual labour work related to defence establishment, scientific establishment, sensitive organisation, railways, ministries etc,” the ministry said, citing grocery or vegetable shops as examples of businesses the migrants were allowed.

In recent years, India has seen an increase in the number of Hindu and Sikh refugees, especially from Pakistan and Afghanistan, alleging religious persecution.

The Centre has also given the state police a free hand in not allowing the migrants to “take up any other business activity also considered sensitive from security point of view”.

The letter, put up on the ministry website, indicates concerns within the security establishment over relaxing norms for allowing minority communities from these countries to enter, stay and later seek citizenship.

The biggest worry is that intelligence agencies, particularly in Pakistan, could exploit New Delhi’s open-door policy. It had forced the government to move slowly, one step at a time, an official said.

In the run-up to the 2014 elections, Narendra Modi, who was the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate, had said India would offer shelter to Hindus persecuted in other countries.

“India is the only place for them… we will have to accommodate them here,” he said at an election rally in Assam, drawing a distinction between Hindu and Muslim immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. Arrival of Muslim migrants from the neighbouring country is a sensitive issue in Assam.

The BJP manifesto went on to describe India as “a natural home for persecuted Hindus”.

Once voted to power, the BJP-led NDA included Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians in the list of minorities that could seek refuge in India.

The letter comes weeks after the government relaxed restrictions on movement of the migrants staying in India on long-term visa.

The ministry also allowed migrants to buy a home or office space, get a driving licence, an Aadhaar number or even the permanent account number issued by income-tax authorities.

It is not clear why these facilities were not available to them earlier if they had lived in India for six months or more, and thus qualified to be a resident of India.

There is nothing in the motor vehicle law or rule that bars a foreigner from getting a driving licence.

The Aadhaar law makes it clear that every resident – and not just a citizen – is entitled to the unique identification number and the I-T authorities don’t turn away a foreigner willing to pay the tax.

The only relaxation that the minorities have been given was the permission to buy property. Foreign nationals living in India can buy immovable property except agricultural land.

Citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, China, Iran, Nepal and Bhutan living in India, however, need the Reserve Bank of India’s permission before making the purchase.