New format of Indian passport likely to pose hurdles in Kingdom

January 16, 2018

Irfan Mohammed

Saudi Gazette

— Indian expatriates in Kingdom have voiced concern over Indian government decision to abolish the last page of the Indian passport that contain address and parent particulars of passport holders stating that this move would cause chaos and confusion.

It is also likely to pose a major hurdle for them in obtaining visit visas for parents, spouse and children and cause further delay in repatriation of dead bodies and sick workers back home.

The Indian government recently announced that new passports would no longer have a page displaying the address, spouse and parents particulars of citizen.

The address proof page is crucial in country with large multi-ethnic and cultural diverse community in order to establish the identity of Indian workers, especially in death cases in remote areas.

Without approaching Indian diplomatic missions, based on the address page in the employees’ passport, the employers and community workers could reach out to families of deceased workers, also inform them about unconscious sick workers in their care. However, with the new rule the basic contact point would disappear and would leave the employers or community workers with a Herculean and extremely difficult task of reverting to the missions to ascertain the address and immediate family.

Also the additional onus of proof of parents, if alive, in a case where compensation is to be paid would prove more cumbersome and extra work. Earlier, the page in the passport detailing their names and relation to the passport holder was enough proof for procedural work to start in such cases.

“If one found an Indian worker in coma without any details, how can we contact his or her family for repatriation,” asked noted social worker from Qassim region Noushad Pothincode.

He cited an interesting case where an employer and the hospital were able to reach the family back home in India based on the passport’s last page only.

“One Chukkalingam of Tamil Nadu state was in coma in Ras General Hospital, and the employer along with the hospital found out from the last page his family contact and address, and they were able to contact the family, who sought his repatriation, and then only he was repatriated,” he explained. “If there is no address or family contact, then the case would have been delayed further,” he added.

“We come across some cases wherein Indian workers suffer with psychological issues and are not able to speak or remember any personal particulars including their names, and in such cases we entirely depend upon last page only,” Noushad explained.

With the new rule things will become difficult, as one must visit Indian missions in Riyadh or Jeddah to obtain particulars in such cases, this is likely to increase the burden for all concerned.

Based on the last page only, employers or Indian officials have been able to reach easily family members and legal heirs of deceased workers back home in India to complete legal formalities in death cases.

Many of employers do not even spare time to visit Jeddah or Riyadh to complete death formalities then expecting them to take the extra effort of finding out the address or contact member for a sick worker is not something one can expect, opined other community workers.

Touching on another aspect of last page, Abdul Jalil PV, a prominent social worker in Khafji in Eastern Province, asks that how can one apply for visit visa for wife or parents if their particulars are not mentioned in the passport.

Furnishing any other certificate proving the same would complicate the process further with different formats being adopted in different states and attestation etc. can lead to chaos in visa issuance offices (Isteqdam).

Presently the Indian passport is only official document for NRIs living abroad to show as their native address proof as NRIs are not entitled to enroll in any other document such as Aadhar and Election Commission’s Photo Identification Card.

Lack of address proof can prove a big problem in context of security as any NRIs traveling inside India during their vacation or moving from New Delhi or Mumbai airports to their native places by crossing multi states by train or road. Currently they carry their passports, but with the deletion of this page they would likely be in a quandary what to provide as proof and may also encounter a myriad of problems caused by clueless or officious officials implementing to the letter a rule without understanding the spirit.

The decision to keep the last page of its citizens’ passports blank was made following the recommendations by a panel set up to look into, among other issues, requests by single mothers that the name of the father not be mentioned in their child’s passport.

“A three-member committee comprising the officials of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Ministry of Women and Child Development was constituted to examine various issues pertaining to passport applications where mother/child had insisted that the name of the father not be mentioned in the passport, and also relating to passports issued to children with a single parent and to adopted children,” MEA announced, adding that the report had been accepted by the ministry.

One of the recommendations was that the MEA explore the possibility of doing away with the printing of information now found on the last page. Existing passports remain valid till the date of expiry printed on them, according to the ministry.

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