India to issue ‘discriminatory’ passports to migrant workers



India plans to issue orange-covered passports to some migrant workers, not the regular blue passport, pictured above. (AFP)
Updated 17 January 2018
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India to issue ‘discriminatory’ passports to migrant workers



LONDON: The Indian government has drawn widespread criticism after it revealed a plan to introduce orange-colored passport jackets for some migrant workers. 
Legal experts and campaigners called the plan discriminatory and said it could increase the vulnerability of workers to being duped by middlemen who promise them jobs, often in the Arabian Gulf. 
Last week the country’s Ministry of External Affairs announced that migrant workers who need emigration clearance to travel to 18 countries would soon be issued with orange passports, instead of India’s traditional navy blue passport. 
Emigration clearance is required by those travelers who have not passed the equivalent of 10th grade at school.
“Passport holders with ECR (Emigration Check Required) status would be issued a passport with orange color passport jacket and those with non-ECR status would continue to get a blue passport,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told Reuters on Friday.
The new orange-covered passports are supposed to protect vulnerable laborers from exploitation abroad.
The Foreign Ministry told The Washington Post the change will make it easier for immigration and law enforcement officers to spot travelers who require vetting before they leave for certain countries. The theory is it would also make human trafficking more difficult as border officials would know who needs extra permission to travel.
The plan has been roundly criticized, including by the leader of the opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, who tweeted: “Treating India’s migrant workers like second class citizens is completely unacceptable.”

S. Irudaya Rajan, professor at the Center for Development Studies in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, from where many migrant workers originate, said: 
“You cannot divide people on the basis of educational qualifications; it’s discriminatory.
“An orange cover shows a person is not well educated, and makes them vulnerable to exploitation. These are already vulnerable people who need more protection, not discrimination,” he told Reuters.
India is the world’s largest exporter of migrant labor. 
There are an estimated six million Indian migrants in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman. 
Some  are duped by job agents, and trapped in low paying jobs with few benefits or protections.
The workers are crucial to the Indian economy, with expats sending home $69 billion in 2015, making it the top nation for remittances, according to the World Bank.
The Indian government is still to release details of the plan, including a timeline for implementation.
“The government could argue that these passports are for the workers’ protection, but to a worker it may not seem that way,” Sehjo Singh, a director at advocacy group ActionAid India, told Reuters.
“The government must make clear how this system will work in favor of the workers.”


Thousands await rescue amid deadly south Indian floods

Updated 7 min 8 sec ago
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Thousands await rescue amid deadly south Indian floods

  • Thousands of people are waiting to be rescued as relentless monsoon rains cause extensive flooding
  • The central government has dispatched military units to Kerala, but state officials are pleading for additional help

NEW DELHI: Thousands of stranded people are waiting for rescue as relentless monsoon floods batter the south Indian state of Kerala, where more than 170 have died in a little over a week and much of the state is at least partially submerged.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Saturday with the state’s top officials, promising tens of millions of dollars in aid.
The central government has dispatched military units to Kerala, but state officials are pleading for additional help.
The Indian Express newspaper reported that state legislator Saji Cherian begged for aid on a TV news channel, saying, “Please ask Modi to give us helicopters, give us helicopters. please, please!“
Over 300 people have died in Kerala since the monsoon started in June, including over 170 since torrential rains began in August.