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Centre opens gates wider for Tibetans going abroad

Rules eased: Roughly 1.10 lakh Tibetan refugees live in 45 settlements in the country.   | Photo Credit: C.V. Subrahmanyam

In a move aimed at discouraging Tibetans from applying for Indian passports, the Centre has eased the regulations for Tibetan refugees who wish to travel and study abroad. Travel regulations are also being simplified for relatives of Tibetans living in foreign countries to help them make visits.

According to the Home Ministry, there are approximately 1.10 lakh Tibetan refugees who live either in 45 settlements spread in different parts of the country or in places outside.

Delhi HC ruling

In 2017, the Delhi High Court ruled that Tibetans born in India between 1950 and 1987 were eligible for Indian passports. The court ruling came on a petition filed by a journalist, Lobsang Wangyal. Following this, the Regional Passport Office in Himachal Pradesh received a large number of applications from Tibetans for Indian passports.

The same year, the Ministry of External Affairs also notified rules that Tibetans seeking an Indian passport would need to surrender the “Registration Certificates” issued to them, leave the settlements and forfeit the privileges and benefits from the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) — the Tibetan government-in-exile headquartered at McLeodganj in Himachal Pradesh.

“Tibetans applying for Indian passports is a cause for concern; what happens to the Tibetan movement then? Though the easing of travel restrictions should not be looked at from only this perspective, there were genuine concerns also that had to be addressed,” a senior government official said.

The official claimed that the rules were being changed for the first time since the Tibetan refugees began pouring into India in the wake of the flight of the Dalai Lama from Tibet in 1959. The government had then decided to give them asylum as well as assistance towards temporary settlement.

Tibetans who wish to travel abroad are issued an Identity Certificate (IC) in place of a passport and a Registration Certificate (RC) to allow their stay in India.

“The renewal of RC can now be done online as Tibetans who wanted to move from one settlement to another were facing difficulties,” the official said.

He added that earlier if a Tibetan wished to travel abroad to study or for any other purpose, the IC had to be accompanied with a “return permit” issued by the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO). The official said this “redundant” exercise had been done away with as the IC is issued after multiple layers of security check.

“When the IC is issued, it will be accompanied by a no-objection certificate,” said the official. The official said all foreign missions had been informed of the changed rules.

Grant-in-aid

In 2015, the NDA government for the first time sanctioned a scheme of providing grant-in-aid of ₹40 crore to the Dalai Lama’s Central Tibetan Relief Committee (CTRC) for five years. The Centre has released ₹16 crore in the past two years to meet the administrative and social welfare activity expenses of 36 Tibetan settlement offices in different States.

Permit mandatory

“We are relaxing the travel rules for relatives of Tibetans living in foreign countries, the process for this is on,” said the official.

As per the present norms, foreigners who intend to visit Tibetan settlements and camps should seek prior permission of the Home Ministry and procure Protected Area Permit (PAP) as per the provision of Section 3 of the Foreigners Act, 1946 (31 of 1946).

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 2:24:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/centre-opens-gates-wider-for-tibetans-going-abroad/article22647025.ece

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