Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Two-tier Citizenship

India is the world’s largest exporter of migrant labor; 1 in 20 migrant workers worldwide are Indian-born — a number that has rapidly risen in the past 25 years. Indian émigrés sent home $69 billion in 2015, making their country the world’s top recipient of remittances. But many of those who travel, especially those who provide cheap, unskilled labor, are very vulnerable to exploitation. To protect workers, India requires unskilled migrants to get clearances from the Indian government before traveling to a number of countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Malaysia and Yemen. But people who have graduated high school, or the 2 percent of Indians who pay income tax, don’t need to get clearances for travel, as skilled or educated workers are less likely to be exploited abroad. Those who need emigration checks are identified on the last page of their passport.

India’s Foreign Ministry issued new rules saying that citizens who require emigration checks will now carry new orange passports, while those who don’t will carry blue ones. Critics argue that the orange and blue color coding could lead to discrimination against poor and illiterate workers and effectively render millions of Indians second-class citizens.

Nitin Pai, director of a Bangalore-based public policy think tank, criticized the new rules. “...the move to create different coloured passports for different kinds of travelers, it is wrong and must be reconsidered. Already officials treat citizens differently based on their class … different passport colors will worsen it,” he wrote.

Oomen Chandy, former chief minister of the southern state of Kerala, said, “If this becomes a reality, the moment an orange color passport holder lands in a foreign country, he will be treated with disdain, and it will have a telling impact on such people's character and individuality. This should not happen at all.”

India is one of the world's most unequal societies. Oxfam's India chief executive in 2017 said that just 57 billionaires control 70 percent of the nation's wealth.

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