Orange passport for India’s migrant workers ‘institutionalizes discrimination’

Updated 18 January 2018
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Orange passport for India’s migrant workers ‘institutionalizes discrimination’

NEW DELHI: Indian government’s recent decision to issue orange passports to people who require emigration checks has been widely criticized by concerned citizens who have described the new rules as discriminatory.

The Indian Foreign Ministry said on Friday that those who need emigration clearance for travel to a group of 18 countries, mostly in the Gulf region, would be issued with orange passports and those who do not would receive blue ones.

People who have graduated high school, or are among the 2 percent of Indians who pay income tax, do not require emigration checks. But the vast majority of unskilled workers do.

“You are making a mockery of the people who are illiterate and come from the marginalized section of society,” said Professor Irudaya Rajan S. of Kerala’s Center for Development Studies (CDS). “It is an institutionalization of discrimination on the basis of education.”

According to Pew Research Center, 1 in 20 migrant workers worldwide are Indian-born. As of 2015, 15.6 million people born in India were living in other countries. India has been among the world’s top countries of origin for migrants since the UN started tracking those figures in 1990. A World Bank estimate says that India received about $69 billion in remittances in 2015 amounting to roughly three percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Data provided by the Indian Embassy in Doha reveals that between 2004 and 2017, around 3,154 Indian workers died in Qatar, with more than 200 workers dying each year from 2007 onwards.

“How will changing the color of the passport stop exploitation?” asked Rajan. “It’s not the right move. In the name of protection, you are exposing people to risk both inside and outside India. (This) is not going to help stop human trafficking and exploitation.”

Government sources say the scheme is supposed to prevent the exploitation of Indian workers abroad, although there has been no clear explanation as to how.

The government has claimed that the new passport scheme will make it easier for immigration officers to identify workers who require vetting before being allowed to travel to various countries. As the Washington Post reported, “The theory is this would also make human trafficking more difficult as border officials would immediately know which people need the extra permission to travel.”

But Rajan said, “It is sheer discrimination on the basis of the socio-economic status of the workers. The government argues that it wants to protect Indians who are vulnerable through this decision. The orange passport will make them much more vulnerable, as they are more easily identifiable.”

Pranay Kotasthane, a geopolitical analyst at the Bangalore-based think tank The Takshashila Institution, questioned the need for emigration clearance in the first place, and added that the “priority of the government should be to prevent exploitation of women and Indian workers abroad. There is no way the change in the color of the passport is going to do that.”

He told Arab News that “by changing the color of the passport, you are just systematizing more discrimination – one Indian gets one color of passport and another gets the other one. It’s not solving the problem. In fact this should be used as an opportunity by India to completely get rid of the emigration system that we have used since 1983.”

Rakesh Sinha, a member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the paternal organization of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), defends the government’s decision, saying that “the move will act as a deterrent against human trafficking.”

However, leader of the opposition, Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi, said the move was “completely unacceptable” and that the government is “treating India’s migrant workers like second-class citizens.”

“This action demonstrates BJP’s discriminatory mind-set,” Gandhi added.


Taliban’s Ghazni assault sparks new Pak-Afghan tensions

Updated 18 August 2018
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Taliban’s Ghazni assault sparks new Pak-Afghan tensions

  • Pakistan’s Foreign Office says Afghanistan has not shared any evidence to support its recent allegations against Pakistan
  • Imran Khan’s idea of a soft border between Pakistan and Afghanistan may have suffered a big setback in the wake of the Ghazni attack

PESHAWAR: In the backdrop of the Taliban’s brazen assault on the southern city of Ghazni in Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani alleged that the bodies of the perpetrators had arrived in Pakistan, though Islamabad maintained that Kabul had not officially shared any information or evidence in this regard.
Soon after that, the Afghan president said in a fiery speech to a jirga in Ghazni: “I have a message for Pakistan. Dead bodies (of the Taliban) have arrived in (Pakistan). Peace cannot be forcefully imposed on Afghanistan. Where did they (Taliban) come from and why are they being treated in (Pakistani) hospitals?”
But Pakistan strongly rejected reports claiming that some Taliban fighters involved in the Ghazni attack had been offered medical treatment in its hospitals.
In the absence of any official communication through regular channels established bilaterally, such reports cannot be given any credence, said Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday.
Haq Nawaz, a senior Peshawar-based security analyst, told Arab News that the newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan faced a string of daunting challenges, such as economic revival, political stability, tackling corruption, and improving relations with his country’s immediate neighbors.
However, he added that recent developments in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have stepped up violent activities, will probably constitute a much bigger predicament for the new political administration.
He recalled that Khan had mentioned in his victory speech that he wanted a European Union-style soft border with Afghanistan, claiming that the idea had seemingly received a setback after the Ghazni attack.
“The latest bout of allegations will have a negative impact on the process of reviving good relations between the two neighboring countries,” Nawaz noted.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa also expressed “deep concern” over the recent surge in violence in Afghanistan and lamented in a statement released by the military’s media wing the loss of precious lives.
Bajwa reiterated that Pakistan was not supporting terrorist activities inside Afghanistan. He added that the allegation about the movement of injured or dead terrorists from Ghazni to Pakistan was incorrect.
However, the army chief noted that there were scores of Pakistanis working in Afghanistan, and that some of them periodically fell victim to acts of terrorism along with their Afghan brothers inside Afghanistan. “Terming such victims as terrorists is unfortunate,” he maintained.
Yet, the Afghan president sought an explanation from Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership on the Ghazni attack.
“Imran Khan, you are the son of Pashtun parents. Investigate this and give me an answer. General Bajwa, you have repeatedly given me assurances over phone calls that special attention would be given to the issue of peace in Afghanistan once elections took place in Pakistan. Now give me an answer,” Ghani said while addressing a group of tribal elders attending the jirga.
Bajwa said that different factions of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan hiding in their sanctuaries in Afghanistan after assuming Afghan identities, were transported to Pakistan for medical help after receiving injuries.
Nawaz said the Afghan government should share relevant evidence with Pakistan in this case, arguing that using the media or social media to deal with such serious and sensitive developments can worsen the situation.
He said it was not just a statement or allegation from an ordinary official since the claim was made by a head of state, adding that both countries should settle such teething issues through dialogue and diplomatic channels.
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted in its statement: “Such reports can only be viewed as malicious propaganda to vitiate the existing cooperation between the two countries.”