New Delhi: The government has scrapped its plan to issue orange coloured passports to those who have not passed their Class 10 examination. It has also decided not to discontinue printing the last page of the passport, which is used as a valid proof of address.
- Sushma Swaraj reviewed decision after protests and representations
- Critics argued orange passport could lead to discrimination against poor
- Last page of passport used as valid proof of address
The review comes after sharp criticism against the change which could have led to discrimination against people issued orange passports. A petition had also been filed in the Kerala High Court that argued workers would be more vulnerable to harassment and exploitation since their status would be apparent because of their passport.
In a statement on Tuesday, the foreign ministry said it had been decided to continue with the current practice of printing the last page of the passport and not to issue a separate passport with an orange jacket to ECR (Emigration Clearance Required) passport holders. Passports currently are issued in three colours. Government officers have a white passport, diplomats are issued red passports and all other passports are blue.
The government had announced these changes earlier this month, but Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj reviewed the decision after a spate of protests and representations.
"After comprehensive discussions with the various stakeholders, the Foreign Ministry 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 colour jacket to ECR passport holders," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a statement.
The government had said that the new orange passports were meant to protect vulnerable labourers from exploitation abroad, but critics, including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, argued that the orange and blue colour coding could lead to discrimination against poor and illiterate workers.
ECR or "Emigration Check Required" category is for applicants who haven't finished school and are travelling abroad for work to a group of 18 countries, most of them in the Gulf. They have to get an 'Emigration clearance' certificate from the office of Protector of Emigrants before leaving India.
Mr Gandhi had argued that this would lead to discrimination against India's migrant workers who would be treated like "second class citizens". This, he had tweeted, was completely unacceptable.
"This action demonstrates BJP's discriminatory mindset," Mr Gandhi had said.
Tuesday's statement by the foreign ministry said the decision to change the colour-coding of the passports was taken on the recommendation of a three-member committee that also included an official of the women and child development ministry.
According to the latest International Migration Report by the United Nations, India has the largest number of people born in the country now living outside its borders. The number of Indian-born workers residing abroad totalled 17 million in 2017 who annually send home, according to the World Bank, an estimated $ 69 billion.