NEW DELHI: The government on Sunday announced that it proposes to simplify procedures for grant of Indian citizenship to minority Hindus from Pakistan.
The proposal also envisages allowing "minority communities of Pakistan staying in India on a Long Term Visa" to buy property, open bank accounts and obtain permanent account number (PAN) and Aadhaar number, a home ministry official said here.
According to the proposal, the collectors or district magistrates of 18 districts will be empowered for two years' period to grant citizenship to such people at heavily reduced fees.
The districts are Raipur (Chhattisgarh), Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Rajkot, Kutch and Patan (Gujarat), Bhopal and Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Nagpur, Mumbai, Pune and Thane (Maharashtra), West Delhi and South Delhi (National Capital Territory), Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Jaipur (Rajasthan) and Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh).
Having reviewed "the hardships being faced by the minority communities in Pakistan staying in India on Long Term Visa", the government also plans to allow such people to open bank accounts and obtain PAN and Aadhaar number, the official said.
"These are only at proposal stage," the official told IANS and sought public comments and suggestions on the measures proposed.
The feedback may be sent to the foreigners cell of the union home ministry.
It is further proposed that the fees for registration as citizen of India for nationals of Pakistan belonging to minority communities be reduced from Rs.5,000 (under registration) and 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 or naturalisation.
"There are reports that a number of Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals belonging to minority communities in those countries, such as Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Parsis and Buddhists, have been compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution," the official said.
Many of these people enter India either without any valid travel document or with one whose validity has expired.
The government decided in September 2015 "on humanitarian considerations" to exempt Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals belonging to minority communities, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, to stay in the country even after expiry of their travel documents.
The exact number of minority refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan living in India is not known. Rough official estimates suggest there could be about two lakh such people, mostly Hindus and Sikhs.
There is a large number of Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Jaipur, Raipur, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Kutch, Bhopal, Indore, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Delhi and Lucknow, sources said.
Issue of driving licence, permission to take up self-employment or for doing business which is considered safe from security point of view besides issuance of Aadhaar number and PAN are some of facilities being planned, the source added.