A day after the Kerala High Court issued a notice seeking clarification on orange-coloured passports, the MEA today said that it will not go ahead with issuing a separate passport to ECR holders. The ministry of external affairs also stated that it will continue with the current practice of printing of the last page of the passport. The decision was taken at a meeting, chaired by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and attended by one of her two deputies V K Singh among others, yesterday, the ministry said. Earlier, the government proposed to change the passport colour from blue to orange for people with Emigration Check Required (ECR) status. In his plea, lawyer Shamsuddeen Karunagappally argued that such a move would lead to segregation of people with low education and low economic status. Emigration check is required for passport holders, not having education beyond the tenth standard, and having less than taxable income, who seek migration for employment, the petitioner added. The petitioner contended that the move would make their underprivileged status known publicly through separate colour code. It is a grave invasion of their fundamental right to privacy and dignity, Karunagappally added. The petitioner was also aggrieved by the government’s decision to omit the last page of the passport containing details including the holders’ address.
According to the MEA statement, the recommendations of a three-member panel, comprising officials from the MEA and the ministry of women and child development, were accepted and it was 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”.
The government also faced criticism from the Congress. The party said that the BJP was “obsessed” with orange and the move “screamed of discrimination”. The Congress had also put out a video on its Twitter handle, saying the move could encourage “classism” against migrant workers. The video shows the BJP’s top leadership and workers staging protests, besides the RSS workers taking out a march past wearing orange/saffron-coloured clothes/bandanas/flags. “A passport of a different colour for a certain class of Indians is an invitation for discrimination. #OrangeIsTheNewBlue,” the Congress tweet said. The video also stated that, “We know the BJP is obsessed with the colour orange…the newest target is our passport, that could change from blue to orange.”