When her daughter turned 18 years old in 2016, Priyanka Gupta applied for her passport at the Delhi passport office. The application was rejected as the father’s name wasn’t provided. “This despite the fact that I had attached documents of my divorce. Also, I took out clippings of court rulings on this matter, which had clearly mentioned that a mother’s name should be sufficient in the case of a divorcee. But the authorities at the passport office didn’t recognise it,” says the 45-year-old, who works at the embassy of Iceland in New Delhi.
Since the passport was needed urgently, Gupta added the father’s name on the document. But, distraught by the incident, her daughter asked her to challenge the norm. Gupta, however, wasn’t keen on fighting another legal battle after her divorce. It was then that a friend suggested starting an online petition. Gupta wrote a petition on Change.org in May 2016 and addressed it to the central government. “Luckily, my petition got a big response. It had 1.5 lakh signatures,” she says. “The comments gave me a big boost as well. There were so many women who were fighting the same battle and lauded my efforts.”
By December, things started moving. Her efforts led to the formation of a three-member inter-ministerial committee with representatives from the external affairs and women and child development ministries. This led to amendments in the guidelines and, now, the name of either parent can be provided in the passport form. Besides this, a person doesn’t need to submit his/her marriage or divorce certificate either. Gupta’s efforts were hailed by the women and child development ministry early this year and she was felicitated as an ‘agent of change’, a title given by the ministry last year to 10 women pioneers fighting for social causes.
pAGupta says she had little hope when she started the petition because like most people she believed ‘nothing would change’. “But the power of the Internet is massive. It connected me to so many faceless women who had similar stories,” she says. Her next fight, she says, is for changes in PAN card rules. Her daughter has applied for a PAN card and, once again, the name of the father is mandatory.