New Delhi, Jul 6: Keeping its promise to provide succour to refugees from neighbouring countries, the NDA government is contemplating to amend the Citizenship Act so that Hindus and Sikhs, who had entered India without valid documents could be granted Long Term Visa and citizenship.
The issue was discussed threadbare at a high-level meeting chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and attended by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar besides others. There are thousands of Hindus and Sikhs who have entered India after facing religious persecution in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan without any valid document.
These refugees have been facing difficulty in getting Long Term Visa (LTV) or Citizenship and the existing law does not allow anyone granting Indian nationality if he or she can not show proof of documents on country of birth. "Hence, the government plans to amend the Citizenship Act so that such refugees could be granted LTV and citizenship without any hindrance," a Home Ministry official said.
In its election manifesto before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had declared India as "a natural home for persecuted Hindus" who "shall be welcome to seek refuge".
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the campaigning in 2014 had made a distinction between Hindu and Muslim refugees from Bangladesh and arguing that the former should be accommodated.
"We have a responsibility towards Hindus who are harassed and suffer in other countries. India is the only place for them. We will have to accommodate them here," Modi had said.
Ever since the Modi government came to power, several concessions have been offered to the persecuted Hindus and Sikhs of the neighbouring countries that include issuing Long Term Visa, allowing such people to buy residential properties, procuring PAN cards, Aadhar card, driving licence, opening bank accounts, lowering of visa fees besides others.
Besides, the Home Ministry also organised special camps at district level in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and NCT of Delhi for granting LTV and citizenships.
Children of refugees on LTV are allowed to take admission in schools/ colleges/ universities/ technical and professional institutions under foreigner quota without permission from the state government/UT administration.
State governments/ UT administration are empowered to grant permission to such people to engage themselves in employment of purely private nature.
State governments/UT administration delegated powers for services like grant of visit to additional places, grant of No Objection to Return to India (NORI) and grant of permission to change in mode of travel and port of exit.