Issuing coloured passports is cruel and discriminatory
The new law is a violation of Article 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution under which every citizen has to be treated equallyopinion Updated: Jan 26, 2018 15:20 IST
The Union government’s recent decision to change the colour of the passport for certain categories of people, as I understand, was in response to the demand,especially from single parents and adopted children, for removal of the father’s name found on the last page in the document. But now, by doing away with the entire page, important details such as a person’s emigration status will no longer be there. By addressing one issue, the government has introduced other complications.
The incorporation of emigration clearance status — the ECR or ECNR (Emigration Check Required and Emigration Check Not Required) — into the passport was a measure adopted by the government as per The Emigration Act, 1983, to protect people with less educational qualifications working abroad from human trafficking and exploitative labour regimes.
The alternative measure now suggested by the government is to adopt a distinctive colour for the cover page of the passports so as to differentiate them easily. I feel that the move to provide two different types of passports to people of the same nationality is discriminatory and condemnable. Under the pretext of protecting the rights of one section of citizens, the government has harmed another set who will now be treated as second-class citizens in other countries based on their educational status and employment.
If the present dispensation is serious about addressing the concerns of single parents, they could provide an option to the persons concerned to choose whether they want to incorporate the name of the father in the passport while applying for it. We could have included some unique bar codes on the basis of the nature of the passports which connects directly with the MEA networks. This could help the ministry in monitoring their welfare.
The government should realise that by removing the last page from passports, it is reducing its utility and making it just a document for international travel, instead of an authentic identification document . It is a major setback for Indians living abroad as they use this document as an identity proof to create bank accounts, birth and death registrations, and so on.
Educational qualifications should be the criteria only for selection to a profession and not to grade people as first-class and second-class citizens. It is not by choice that some sections could not study more than they did. There are many Indians working abroad who may not have higher degrees but are proficient in their professions. We have so many examples of Keralites who have, despite the lack of higher education, done very well abroad.
At least 15% of the 2.5 million Keralites in West Asia have an ECR status, which means they must now get orange coloured passports. The new law is a violation of Article 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution under which every citizen has to be treated equally.
How could a responsible, democratic government rely on the logic of officials from two ministries and take a decision which is going to impact the fundamentals of our constitutional ethos and the lives and livelihoods of millions of citizens?
Oommen Chandy is Congress leader and former chief minister of Kerala
The views expressed are personal