Monday, February 20, 2017

It’s time to look at dual citizenship again

11 Jan, 2017, 03:38AM IST

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When His Excellency Antonio Luis dos Santos da Costa visits is Rua Abade Faria family home, he will perhaps know that the linkages  between this home and his Lisboa go beyond shared histories, culture and language. There are countless Goans whose births are registered in Portugal, by virtue of which the Indian state marks them as Portuguese citizens forcing them to relinquish either their Indian passports or the Portuguese bill of identity.
These Goans do not wish to give up either of their two identities- the Indian or the Portuguese. There be no debate that  irrespective of what sentiments are, laws cannot be overridden. There can also be no debate either that Goans who are “Portuguese nationals” by virtue of their births registered or by acquiring passports, cannot push the dual citizenship arguments in an existing scenario. And it is also clear that the Government of Portugal has no role to play in giving Indians dual citizenship. At the same time Portugal has no desire to change the privileges Goan families born before 1961 get with regard to Portuguese citizenship.
But the visit of the Prime Minister of Portugal is a very good time to remind the Government of India that Goa shares a very special relationship with this Iberian country and allowing dual citizenship will not make Goans lesser Indians. In the same manner in which the Prime Minister of India goes to the UK or the USA and asks Indo American or British Indians to come back  or get the benefits of  shared experiences, why can’t this be extended to dual citizenship. The dual citizenship holder will in fact do both countries proud, especially the country of his origin. Business, trade and tourism links will expand and the opportunities for education will open up.
In Goa, Goan Portuguese nationals, should not have to face any ‘stigma; of having acquired Portuguese citizenship  and  this can only be done if dual citizenship is allowed by the government of India, not just to Goans but to hundreds of thousands of Indians all over the world.
Little progress has happened in this direction though.  Last year the Union Home ministry accepted the recommendations of a committee set up last January seeking review of all such cases of dual citizenship by a 'designated authority' at the Centre or State level. 
This will ultimately impact more than 2 lakhs citizens of Goa who were issued a 'Bill of identity' by the Portuguese authority.
Earlier an inter-ministerial committee was set up last year after former Manohar Parrikar wrote to the centre asking to solve the dual citizenship among Goans. However, solutions have not been thought of in a manner of urgency.
Perhaps, the Portuguese premier can, at some point of time, make a brief mention of the sentiments of Goans on this issue. This ,will kick-start a new initiative in this direction and perhaps open the doors for Goans and then Indians to being proud citizens of both nations, with strong roots  in their home country with a will to give back to their soil  for the benefit of future generations.