Weeks after announcing that Indian migrant labourers would be issued orange-coloured passports instead of the usual blue, the government on Tuesday backed down after sharp criticism especially from the opposition . The Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that the decision to continue with the current blue passports for all general sections was taken after “comprehensive discussions.”
“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 colour jacket to ECR (Emigration Check Required) passport holders,” a press release from the Ministry said. The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, and Minister of State for External Affairs, General (Retd.) V.K. Singh, the release added.
The announcement reversed the January 12 decision in which the MEA had done away with printing of the last page of the passport that contains names of the parents of the passport applicant. At the same time, the MEA had also declared that the covers of the ECR category passports that cater to migrant workers from India would be in orange instead of the usual blue.
The decision to do away with the last page was taken following suggestions from an expert panel which aimed to make the passport more suitable for single parents, the MEA had clarified then.
However, the idea of orange jackets for ECR passports, meant for migrant workers to the Gulf countries and few other southeast Asian and African countries had drawn swift criticism from the opposition. The Hindu had reported that opposition MPs were planning to raise the orange passport issue with the new Foreign Secretary, Vijay Gokhale.
“At the all party meeting of Sunday, MPs from Kerala strongly raised the issue of orange passports as a discriminatory practice. Already passports are divided into two categories of ECR and non-ECR based on requirement for emigration check. There was no need to issue orange passports for migrant workers as it reflected discriminatory tendency of the government against our own people,” said D. Raja of the CPI.
Under the NDA government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, passports have been projected as a tool to bring the people of India into the centre of the MEA’s activities. Several new passport centres have been inaugurated under the drive to provide hassle free passport services to citizens.