REFUGEES from Pakistan living in Pune district can now look forward to an opportunity to secure Indian citizenship sans a cumbersome process. The Pune district collectorate is preparing itself to finally use the powers — granted to it by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in December last year — to grant Indian citizenship to Pakistani refugees. As per a MHA order dated December 26, 2016, the district collectors of Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Thane have been conferred with the power to grant citizenship to Pakistani refugees living in their jurisdiction. The process was delayed as the district administration was busy with the municipal elections.
District Collector Saurabh Rao told The Indian Express on Thursday, “We have trained the staff with the help of police and the Intelligence Bureau… but till now, we have not granted citizenship to any Pakistani refugees in Pune. The home department needs to frame some rules and provide formal training to our staff. We are in contact with the MHA… the training will take place between March 20 and 25. It was not possible to organise it earlier because the election code of conduct was in force for the civic polls.”
“So far, we have received five proposals of Pakistani refugees that are pending at the central level… these would be disposed of within a fortnight. We have not received any applications, from Pakistani refugees seeking Indian citizenship, directly at our office. Once the training is completed, we will organise a camp in April, when Pakistani refugees can proactively apply for Indian citizenship,” said Rao.
He added, “We have dealt with citizenship applications earlier… but only the central government had the power to grant citizenship to Pakistani nationals. Now that such a power has been delegated to the collector, we will be in a position to grant citizenship to Pakistani refugees as per the rules,” said Rao. Over 500 Pakistani refugees live in Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and other parts of the district, said police sources. Most of them are Sindhis, while a few belong to Bohra and other communities; they have applied for long term visas (LTVs) and Indian citizenship.
Raju Thakur, a refugee who left Pakistan 35 years ago and settled in Pune, said, “I left Pakistan because of security reasons. Getting Indian citizenship would be the happiest moment of my life. There are seven members from my family who are desperately waiting for Indian citizenship. We got to know that the application fees for granting Indian citizenship has also been reduced… we thank the central government for that.”
In August last year, during a special camp at the Shivajinagar police headquarters, nearly 100 refugees from Pakistan had raised their concerns before Pravin Horo Sing, director (citizenship), MHA, Ipsita Paul, MHA under-secretary, and Pankaj Mishra, section officer, MHA, as well as officials from the foreigner registration office (FRO) of Pune City Police. The central government had held similar camps in various cities as part of its initiative to speed up the process of granting LTV and citizenship to Pakistani refugees.
What MHA order stated …
The MHA order stated, “In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 16 of the Citizenship Act 1955 (57 of 1955), the government hereby directs that powers exercisable by it, for registration as a citizen of India under section 5 for grant of certificate of naturalisation under section 6 of the Citizenship Act, 1955, in respect of any person belonging to minority community in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians therein this order referring the applicant residing in the states of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and territory of Delhi, shall also be exercisable by the collector, within who jurisdiction the applicant is ordinarily resident, in relation to districts of Raipur in Chhattisgarh, Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Kutch in Gujarat, Bhopal and Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur, Mumbai, Pune and Thane in Maharashtra, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Jaipur in Rajasthan, Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh and West Delhi and South Delhi in the Union Territory of Delhi…”
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