The government on Wednesday rolled out an online system for long term visa (LTV) applications by Hindu refugees from Pakistan in what could be a first step to grant them Indian citizenship.
Under the new system, they can apply online, and also monitor and track their applications as various government agencies process it.
The decision has been taken by the home ministry to address the difficulty being faced by Hindu minorities of Pakistan who come to India with the intention to settle permanently, official sources said.
So far, all such visa applications have been accepted manually. Pakistani nationals eligible for LTV can now submit the applications online by logging in www.indianfrro.gov.in/frro.
While the manual system of submission of LTV applications will continue along with the online system for three months with effect from August 1, 2015, all applications for LTV will be received and processed only on the online mode.
Ever since Narendra Modi-led government came to power in May last year, the Home Ministry has taken a number of steps to streamline the procedure for the members of the minority communities of Pakistani, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who come to India with the intention to settle permanently.
In September 2014, the Home Ministry has set up a task force to monitor and expedite the processing of such people's citizenship and LTV applications.
Delay in processing applications cause hardships and difficulties to applicants, especially to minorities from neighbouring countries who are often of poor economic standing.
There are about 400 Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements in cities like Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jaipur. There are around 60,000 Hindu refugees from Pakistan, official sources said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, during the Lok Sabha election campaign, said in separate rallies in West Bengal and Rajasthan that Pakistani and Bangaladeshi Hindu refugees will be treated like other Indian citizens.