KUWAIT CITY, Jan 13: The Government of India has decided to do away with the last page of the passport which carries names of the spouse, parents and address of the passport-holder and change the color of the ECR (Emigration Check Required) passports, largely availed by unskilled workers seeking employment abroad, according to India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
Responding to queries, the spokesman of the ministry Raveesh Kumar said that a three-member committee comprising officials from External and Women and Child Development ministries has been formed to examine the various aspects pertaining to passport applications where mother or child had insisted that the name of the father should not be mentioned in the passport and also relating to passport issues to children with single parent and to adopted children.
“The report of the committee has been accepted by the ministry,” Kumar said. He said one of the recommendations of the committee was that the External Affairs Ministry should explore the possibility of doing away with the printing of information contained in the passport such as names of father or legal guardian, mother, spouse, and address on the last page of the passport.
“The ministry has examined the recommendation of the Committee in consultation with various stakeholders, examined the guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regarding machinereadable travel documents and decided that the last page of the passport and other travel documents issued under the Passports Act, 1967, and Passport Rules, 1980, would no longer be printed,” Kumar said.
The last page also contains information such Emigration Check Required (ECR) and old passport number with date and place of issue of that passport. “As the last page of the passport would not be printed now, the passport holders with ECR status would be issued an orange color passport with passport jacket and those with non-ECR status would continue to get a blue passport,” Kumar added.
ECR passport holders require clearance from the Protector General of Emigrants to go abroad in order to prevent exploitation. The Indian Security Press (ISP), Nasik, will be designing the new passport booklets in due course. Till such time the new passport booklets are designed, manufactured and made available to the Ministry by ISP, Nashik, the passports and other travel documents would continue to be printed with the last page. “The existing passports would continue to remain valid till the date of expiry printed in the passport booklet,” Kumar confirmed.
In the meantime a large number of Indian workers met the visiting India’s Minister of State for External Affairs Dr (Gen) V K Singh to address and seek immediate solution to the long pending issues of unpaid salary and settlement with the company they work for. Singh, who was in Kuwait to discuss this issue with the Kuwaiti authorities, interacted with the workers of the company and assured that the government of India will do whatever possible to solve the issue.
Earlier the Minister also visited the company camp to meet the distressed workers and also at the embassy premises and briefed them about the outcome of his meeting with the Kuwaiti authorities. It is believed a large number of workers are now ‘illegal’ in Kuwait because their residence permit has expired and the company was reluctant to renew.
This has resulted in huge amount as residence fine for those workers who did not get their salary for the past several months. Minister VK Singh said that he had taken up this issue with the Kuwaiti authorities and requested the Kuwaiti government to waive of this fine and allow the workers to leave the country without paying the fine since the residence permit expired not because of the fault of the workers. The Kuwaiti side has assured that the Kuwaiti government will discuss this with the Government for an appropriate action.
The Government of India had also repeatedly urged the Kuwaiti side to look into the issue of unpaid salary and take legal proceeding to help the distressed laborers. Minister assured the workers that the Government of India has set a time line and promised to follow-up from time to time.
The Minister assured the workers that the embassy and the Indian government will do all arrangements for those who can go back to India such as air transportation and ticket. Embassy had already given air ticket to many who were able to leave the country.
On the issue of the company workers, the minister said, “We understood that the issue is complex as it involves various stake holders. The company is a private sector and many stake holders are involved in this. But we had given a time line to solve this issue and we will follow-up this. I am very optimistic and we will solve this issue”, Minister said. Later in the evening, minister interacted with the Indian community and urged the Indian community to come forward and get in touch with the embassy to support the people in distress.
By Paul Francis X. Fernandes Arab Times Staff