The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved proposals for extending several benefits to “persecuted” minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh living in India on long-term visas.
They can now take up self-employment, buy property, open bank accounts and get driving licences, PAN card and Aadhaar.
Many members of the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities have come to India fearing persecution in their home countries. “They have been persecuted and therefore, they came and have taken shelter here … the move is aimed at easing the difficulties being faced by them,” said Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad at a press conference. The government has waived the penalty on late application for extension of their short- or long-term visas. The registration fees for citizenship will be reduced to Rs. 100 from Rs. 3,000-15,000. Soon, the Citizenship Rules, 2009, will be amended to help such persons get citizenship.Free movement
As approved by the Union Cabinet, the beneficiaries can buy property for self-occupation or use in self-employment. They are allowed free movement within the State of their stay, and can get their long-term visa papers transferred from one State to another.
The government has permitted them to apply for long-term visas from the place of their current residence, even if they have moved to the present place without seeking permission.
“The Collector or District Magistrate would be empowered to authorise an officer not below the rank of Sub-divisional Magistrate for administering the oath of allegiance to the applicant,” the Cabinet note says on granting citizenship.
The powers will be delegated to the Collectors of 16 districts in Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh for two years for registration as citizens of India.
The Union Cabinet note says the Centre has taken several measures in the past two years to alleviate the problems of the persecuted minorities from the neighbouring countries who have been living year for long.