People belonging to minority communities of Pakistan, staying in India on a Long Term Visa, will soon be allowed to buy property, open bank accounts and get PAN and Aadhaar cards, with the Modi government planning to roll out special facilities for them.
Among other concessions the BJP-led government is all set to offer them include reduction in fees for registration as citizens of India from Rs 15,000 to as low as Rs 100.
Though the exact number of minority refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan living in India is not known, according to rough official estimates there are around two lakh such people, mostly Hindus and Sikhs.
There are around 400 Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements in cities like Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Jaipur, Raipur, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Kutch, Bhopal, Indore, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Delhi and Lucknow.
"The central government has been constantly reviewing the hardships being faced by the minority communities in Pakistan staying in India on LTV. To ease some of their difficulties, it is proposed to provide the facilities," a notification issued by the Home Ministry says.
The facilities include permitting opening of bank accounts without prior approval of the Reserve Bank of India subject to certain conditions, permission for purchase of dwelling unit for self-occupation and suitable accommodation for carrying out self-employment without prior approval of RBI subject to fulfilment of certain conditions.
Issue of driving licence, PAN and Aadhaar cards, permission to take up self-employment or for doing business which is considered safe from security point of view, dispensing with the requirement of personal appearance before the Foreigners Registration Officer for registration are a few other facilities being planned.
Allowing free movement within the State/ UT where they are staying instead of restricting their movement within the place of stay, allowing free movement to those living in the National Capital Region (NCR), simplifying the procedure for visit to a place in any other State/ UT are being proposed.
Permission for transfer of LTV papers from one State/ UT to another State/ UT, waiver of penalty on non-extension of short term visa/ LTV on time, permission to apply for LTV at the place of present residence in cases where the applicants have moved to the present place of residence without prior permission are some of the other highlights.
It has also been proposed to simplify the procedure for grant of Indian citizenship to such nationals belonging to minority communities in Pakistan.
Collector, Deputy Commissioner or the District Magistrate will be empowered to authorise, in his absence, in writing an officer not below the rank of Sub-Divisional Magistrate for administering the oath of allegiance to the applicant.
Powers will be given to the Collectors or the District Magistrates of a few select districts in Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh for a period of two years for registration of such Pakistani nationals as citizens of India.
"Reduction of fees for registration as citizen of India for nationals of Pakistan belonging to minority communities from the existing level ranging from Rs 5000 (under registration) to Rs 15,000 (under naturalisation), to a uniform fee of Rs 100/- each at the time of application and at the time of grant of certificate of registration/ naturalisation," the notification says.
Ever since the Narendra Modi government came to power in May 2014, several steps including issuance of Long Term Visa (LTV) for these refugees have been initiated.
In September 2015, the government had decided to allow minority refugees from Bangladesh and Pakistan to stay even after expiry of their visas on humanitarian grounds.
In April 2015, the Home Ministry rolled out an online system for LTV applications and for their processing by various security agencies.
In November 2014, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had approved a number of facilities for them, including manual acceptance of applications for citizenship and consideration of an affidavit filed before the authority in return for citizenship renunciation certificate in case of the individual having a Pakistani passport. The same facilities were to be extended to the children of such refugees.