FACING CRITICISM from several quarters including the Opposition, the government has rolled back its decision to issue orange-coloured passports to those with “emigration check-required” (ECR) status. It has also reversed its earlier decision to scrap the last page of the passport which has personal details.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the decision was taken on Monday following several “individual and collective representations” against the move.
“At a meeting chaired by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on January 29, 2018, in the presence of General (retd) V K Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs, the decision of the MEA on both these issues was reviewed in the light of these representations. After comprehensive discussions with the various stakeholders, the MEA has decided to continue with the current practice of printing of the last page of the passport and not to issue a separate passport with orange-coloured jacket to ECR passport holders,” said the MEA statement.
Earlier, Congress president Rahul Gandhi had said the decision to issue orange-coloured passports would lead to discrimination against India’s migrant workers, who would be treated like “second class citizens”. “This action demonstrates BJP’s discriminatory mindset,” he had said.
The ministry said it had taken the decision to drop the last page of the passport following the recommendation of a three-member committee, comprising
officials of the MEA and the Ministry of Women and Child Development, set up to look at issues related to passports of children of single parents and adopted children. It said the decision to issue passports with orange-coloured jackets to those with ECR status was taken with a view to assist them on priority basis.
On January 12, the MEA announced that it would scrap the last page of the passport, which has personal information including the names of father/ legal guardian, mother, spouse, address and ECR status. It said those with ECR status would be issued passports with orange-coloured jackets, while the others would continue to get blue passports.
There are 14 categories of citizens who automatically qualify for an ‘ECNR’ (emigration check not required) status, including all income tax payers, persons below the age of 18 years and above the age of 50 years and all persons having an educational qualification of 10th standard (SSC, Matriculation) and above.
The idea behind the ECR is to ensure the safety of uneducated and unskilled Indian citizens, from the most deprived socio-economic strata, against prevailing legal conditions in certain foreign countries.
After the decision on orange-coloured passports was announced, a PIL was filed in Kerala pointing out that the move would make “their underprivileged status known publicly through separate colour code” and would be “a grave invasion of their fundamental right to privacy and dignity”.