Minorities

Refugees from neighboring countries not permitted into restricted areas, businesses considered sensitive

August 29, 2016 04:43 AM
Hindus from Pakistan showing their passports in Jalandhar

NEW DELHI: The Centre may have opened India to persecuted religious minorities from neighbouring Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh but it does not intend to lower its guard.

The letter comes weeks after the government-relaxed restrictions on movement of the migrants staying in India on long-term visa. The ministry also allowed migrants to buy a home or office space, get a driving licence, an Aadhaar number or even the permanent account number issued by income tax authorities.

Asking states to extend all facilities to them, the home ministry has said the refugees should not be allowed into restricted areas or businesses considered sensitive. Any activity involving mobile handsets, SIM cards and laptops is prohibited. The migrants also can’t be in security business that involves information technology or cyber space, a recent home ministry letter says.

“They should not be permitted to undertake self-employment/ business in any contractual labour work related to defence establishment, scientific establishment, sensitive organisation, railways, ministries etc,” the ministry said, citing grocery or vegetable shops as examples of businesses the migrants were allowed.

In recent years, India has seen an increase in the number of Hindu and Sikh refugees, especially from Pakistan and Afghanistan, alleging religious persecution. The Centre has also given the state police a free hand in not allowing the migrants to “take up any other business activity also considered sensitive from security point of view”.

The letter, put up on the ministry website, indicates concerns within the security establishment over relaxing norms for allowing minority communities from these countries to enter, stay and later seek citizenship.

The biggest worry is that intelligence agencies, particularly in Pakistan, could exploit New Delhi’s open-door policy. It had forced the government to move slowly, one step at a time, an official said.

The letter comes weeks after the government-relaxed restrictions on movement of the migrants staying in India on long-term visa. The ministry also allowed migrants to buy a home or office space, get a driving licence, an Aadhaar number or even the permanent account number issued by income tax authorities.

It is not clear why these facilities were not available to them earlier if they had lived in India for six months or more, and thus qualified to be a resident of India. There is nothing in the motor vehicle law or rule that bars a foreigner from getting a driving licence.

The Aadhaar law makes it clear that every resident – and not just a citizen – is entitled to the unique identification number and the I-T authorities don’t turn away a foreigner willing to pay the tax. The only relaxation that the minorities have been given was the permission to buy property. Foreign nationals living in India can buy immovable property except agricultural land. Citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, China, Iran, Nepal and Bhutan living in India, however, need the Reserve Bank of India’s permission before making the purchase.

 

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