The proposal of the Indian government to issue orange-coloured passport jackets to its citizens who have not completed high school education and hence require emigration clearance to be employed overseas is not only a bolt from the blue, but it also seems like a perplexing policy decision that begs clarification. The consternation in India, and in many countries home to Non-Resident Indians is, therefore, understandable as concerns regarding this proposal are on the rise.
It is also not beyond the pale of the fierce debate this announcement has unleashed to grapple with the prospect of the discrimination this proposal would trigger. While the Indian government spokespersons have attributed this move to being an anti-exploitation tool for the larger benefit of ensuring the safety of this segment of society, the postulation has yet to pass the test of reason.
It is incumbent upon the Indian government to offer informed and lucid explanation on how this move is not discriminatory as it serves the noble purpose of surmounting the problem of worker exploitation, trafficking and curbing unscrupulous practices in the movement of migrant labour. Until such a breakthrough occurs, the churn of dissenting voices is an inevitable force that the Indian government must face. Compounding this issue is an adjunct — that the last leaf of the passport, which carries the holder’s proof of home country address and other crucial details of identity, is to be done away with. This in turn opens up another Pandora’s box of concerns. Clearly, New Delhi has a lot of explaining to do and it is hoped it will do so in the fastest time possible.