Around four members of village panchayats in Goa have been disqualified as they were ineligible to contest elections to political institutions as not being citizen of India.
They are holding Portuguese passports, meaning thereby, that by law and their conduct, they had acquired Portuguese citizenship. There are unconfirmed reports of the possibility of three newly elected MLAs holding similar travel documents. It would not be an exaggeration to hold that around twelve thousand Goans may be actually residing in Goa who has been either allotted or who have reached the final stages of receiving what they consider as the prized document.
There is credence to these figures since the number of Goans who have applied for surrender of Indian passport to the regional passport office, Goa, for the period 2006 to June 2012 is nearing 9600. It is revealed that on an average 20 Goans per day submit their applications for surrender certificate to RPO, Goa. The surrender certificate of Indian Passport is issued by this office after obtaining the no-objection from Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi. Such a surrender or renunciation certificate needs to be produced at the time of applying for Portuguese passport. There are many who do not hold an Indian passport and hence can apply directly for a Portuguese passport. However, there are few who hide the factual details and hold Indian as well as Portuguese passport. Goans from all communities, working beyond the shores of India or having strong intention to work overseas and the desire of eventually settling outside India forms the potential demand force for Portuguese passport. A Portuguese citizenship means a safe, smooth and hassle-free passage to Europe.
Automatic Citizenship Paradigm
What is special in our relationship with Portugal that makes things simple and easy for Goans to move to Europe? On what grounds does Portugal entertain applications to grant Portuguese nationality? It is nothing else but the accident of history, that is, the colonisation and the liberation of Goa. Goans born prior to December 19, 1961, though of Portuguese nationality by birth automatically became Indian citizens by the Goa, Daman and Diu Citizenship Order, 1962. This resulted in a unique situation wherein people of Portuguese nationality acquired new citizenship. All those born prior to liberation had their birth registered with the ‘Conservatoria dos Registos’ (Registry) in Goa and this registration meant provision of the birth-certificate which was known as ‘certidade de Nacimento.’ This is nothing more than certificate of birth. Almost all Goans born in Portuguese Goa would have such a document of birth.
The Portuguese government entertains applications from any of its citizens from the erstwhile colonies for grant of what is called as ‘Billet de Identidade’ (National identity card). This is applicable for all Goans born prior to liberation or for those who are born post-1961, if one of the parents was born in Portuguese Goa (prior 1961) and their birth and marriage are registered in Lisbon. The first step to apply for Portuguese passport is to get the birth and marriage of parents registered in Lisbon. It is only after these records are entered and maintained at the Registry in Lisbon, the next stage, that is, application for the Portuguese passport commences. Registration of birth entitles the person to apply for nationality by birth. This means that mere registration of birth would not make a person a Portuguese citizen. So, after registration of birth, if the person applies for ‘Billet de Identidade,’ that is, gives the consent or if uses this instrument as a travel document and passport, it would mean that the person has given up Indian citizenship and acquired Portuguese citizenship.
Having given up Indian citizenship, the stay of such a person in Goa is permissible only on application and grant of a residence visa. Such a person would have to also abide by the provisions of the Foreigners Registration Act. At the same time, a mere registration of birth, that is, citizens card in Portugal (Cartao de Cidadao) would not invite any infirmity or disqualification. This issue has come to the fore with the petition filed by Valanka Alemao praying for disqualification of Caetano D’Silva, the newly elected MLA from Benaulim constituency. If the evidence shows that the MLA had applied or given consent for grant of ‘Billet de Identidade,’ it would be a grave violation of not only electoral laws but other enactments.
To Be or Not To Be
India does not recognise dual citizenship. However, considering the special privilege that Goans are accorded by Portugal, if given the opportunity of dual citizenship, Goans would be eager to grab. In fact, a demand for dual citizenship is emanating from overseas Goans and Indians who have acquired foreign citizenship. This demand is being argued on grounds of facilitating investment and contribution to economic and social development of the land of birth. The trend amongst Goans to acquire Portuguese citizenship/passport is largely because of the possibilities of opportunities of employment and settlement. A few opt for it because they perceive better quality of life in Europe and a few others carry a negative complex of their land. I am quite sure that the positive trend for Portuguese passport is for self-interest and private gains. It has nothing to do with love for Portugal or anti-Indian sentiment or feeling. Hence, let us not read factors like nationalism and patriotism into this trend. At the most, I may say that those opting for foreign nationality or passport could be traders and brokers of nationality.
With the possible specter of over twelve thousand Goans residing in Goa with Portuguese nationality and or passport documents, the Government of Goa; the Ministry of External Affairs, Govt of India; the Foreigners Registration Office of Goa Police have to demand information and transparency from the Portuguese Embassy and Consulate. One is free to acquire any citizenship. At the same time the laws of the land should be followed. Under the veil of secrecy and friendly relations with foreign governments, the government of India and the government of Goa should not make matters so difficult for itself and other citizens that Goans opting for Portuguese nationality adorn the seats in our legislatures, local-governing bodies and other instrumentalities of the government with gay abandon. And the powerless individual citizens are expected to lead documentary evidence with government and the judiciary adopting the hands-off and totally helpless posture.