The crucial Portuguese passport issue came before the Legislative Assembly on Friday with Aldona MLA Carlos Ferreira tabling a resolution seeking immediate relief in the ongoing issue of holding European citizenship via the Portuguese passport route and revocation of Indian passports. Legislators across party lines raised concern over the process of revoking Indian passports leaving people in the middle of nowhere while seeking intervention from the Centre.
An interesting question that surfaced was about the limited options for people who have registered themselves as Portuguese citizens but want to now remain as Indian citizens. A case in point was about people from Pondicherry who were allowed to hold citizenship in France. The point of debate was whether Goans too could get such a benefit and be exempted from the revocation of Indian passports.
There is a large section of Goans who have registered their births in Portugal, and the number is increasing by the day. Many of them, especially parents, have gone through the process with the sole aim of allowing their children to go to Europe in search of better jobs and careers. The intent behind taking the Portugal route is as clear as daylight. The Centre’s circular becomes draconian for them because it leaves them in the middle of nowhere. On the contrary, they are treated like criminals with passport officers going overboard in getting people in the revocation net.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s immediate response that the issue has been in the domain of the Central Ministry was unexpected because it is about Goans in distress, although he later admitted that he will take up the matter with MEA and MHA when he visits the capital later this month.
While the Centre is likely to take its own sweet time to decide on dual citizenship in view of the fact that it has national implications, the least the State government can do is to request the Centre to withdraw the circular on revocation with retrospective effect so that people can go ahead with their OCI process. Margao MLA Digambar Kamat was spot on when he said that people cannot be left “stateless”.
The State government has more than one reason to mediate because the youth who are seeking jobs in Europe have drastically reduced the employment burden on the State, especially when the government is struggling on the job front. Secondly, there is foreign exchange that is flowing into the State, in turn helping the economy.
The question of impressing the State government to approach the Centre is baffling because people remaining connected to Goa is a win-win situation for the State and hence there has to be a sense of urgency in resolving the issue.
In this context, till the dual citizenship issue is resolved, the Centre must be impressed to allow parents who have got their Assento an option of choosing Indian citizenship or relinquishing the Portuguese registration because their children have migrated.
Instead of seeking an escape route based on the law which does not permit dual citizenship, the state government must look at the options available and how it can bargain to protect the larger interests of Goans. Nothing will change if the government comforts itself because the issue falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Sawant must act ASAP.