Although there is no fixed figure available with the government of Goa at the moment that can decide how many Goans have their names registered in the Central Registry of Lisbon but the approximation is around 400,000 Goans. To decide the exact figure and to sort out the issue of dual nationality the central government has decided to appoint a “Designated Authority” to handle this issue. But according to the Commissioner for NRI affairs, this will be a limited time exercise. Read what he has to say more about the dual nationality and its future consequences to Goans.
[su_expand more_text=”READ MORE” less_text=” ” height=”0″ hide_less=”yes” link_style=”button” link_align=”center”] This article has s been extracted from the interview of NRI Affairs Commissioner Dr. Wilfred Mesquita with the NT reporter Abdul Wahab. This article is edited keeping its ingredients intact. According to Dr. Wilfred Mesquita, Center has decided to constitute an authority to resolve the issue of dual citizenship in the state. The District Collector will be appointed as a “Designated Authority” to decide the issue of Dual nationality in Goa. He also mentioned that the time frame for people to appear before the designated authority and disclose their dual nationality to sort out their Indian citizenship issue. This option will remain open for a limited period due to the limited resources.
According to the reports, it was the efforts of Dr. Mesquita that center has taken an initiative to appoint a designated authority to sort out the issue of dual citizenship in this state. According to Dr. Mesquita, he was very much concerned about the trouble that senior citizens of Goa were taking who were forced by their children to transcribe their birth abroad to enable them to get the Portuguese nationality for better prospects. The Goa state government wrote a letter to the central government in 2013 stating that a person does not cease to be an Indian citizen as per the Citizenship Act, 1955, by just transcribing his or her name in the central registry of Lisbon. Hence, it was recommended not to consider such people having obtained foreign citizenship. The recommendation has been accepted by the high-level committee.
Dr. Mesquita also mentioned that he does not have any idea of a number of people who have registered their births in Portugal since no government agencies have any such records and Portuguese government is not ready to provide the information. “We have no means to access the information, which is kept under secrecy. We only have the records of those who have surrendered their Indian passport,” he said. he also pointed out that there is no way that government able to find out the exact numbers unless people come forward and disclose the information. “The people who have registered their birth in Lisbon have gone through the private agents surpassing the government authorities and hence there is no way to find out the exact figures,” he said.
When Dr. Mesquita was asked as what kind of benefits does the people registered at the Lisbon enjoys he said that “As per the Portuguese law, those who register their name in the central registry of Lisbon automatically become Portuguese nationals as Portugal recognizes dual or multi-nationality. However, by just registering their birth, they are neither entitled to any rights or benefits under that country’s law nor can they become European Union (EU) citizens. Not only that, if they want to travel to Portugal, then they have to travel with an Indian passport.”
One of the most important questions that the reporter asked Dr. Mesquita was, “Does the birth registration at Central Registry of Lisbon disqualify the person from being an Indian citizen? He replied saying that it does not; according to him just registering of the birth with Portugal does not amount into losing of the Indian nationality. “As I told you, Goans who were born prior to the state’s liberation are entitled to opt for Portuguese citizenship, which can be obtained by submitting a simple application. Since they cannot even travel to Portugal by registering their name with the central registry, such people cannot be considered Portuguese citizens by the Indian government. There is no law in India which suggests that by transcribing birth in another country, it does not amount into losing Indian citizenship.”
There is one more concern that reporter asked Dr. Mesquita regarding the authenticity of the decision that collector is going to take on the issue of dual nationality. Who will be safe and who is unsafe? Dr. Mesquita replied saying that ““People who have voluntarily acquired Portuguese passport or those who have taken steps to seek citizen card and foreign passport are very unsafe as it amounts to an offense if the Indian passport has not been surrendered. Opting for another country’s citizenship without renouncing the Indian citizenship is illegal, as Indian law does not permit dual citizenship. We have not pleaded for these people and we will not plead for people who have acquired the foreign citizenship and returned their Indian passport. People have been blaming their circumstances for what they are and hence they cannot blame anybody and nobody can blame them since they have willingly acquired foreign citizenship for a purpose.”
When Dr. Mesquita was asked about the alleged involvement of the public servant and MLA’s into this on the pretext of not being aware of who made the entries of their names into the central registry of Portugal, Dr. Mesquita said that those claims are wrong, since it is not possible to get the names registered in the central registry without the knowledge of a concern persons. “This is a right opportunity given by the central government to people of Goa so as to forgive them for the misadventure and cancel their birth registration at Lisbon. If the notification, which is not yet, released suits them, then they will definitely come forward and if they don’t want to come forward, then what more can we do,” he said.
Dr. Mesquita also made a point that there won’t be any political pressure on the designated authority since it will be a limited period exercise and it will be done in a very transparent manner on the application received without any political influence. “There will be a cut-off time given to the people, who have had their name transcribed in the central registry of Lisbon to come forward and swear an affidavit to cancel their birth registration there. I presume there was a series of discussions that were held in the past with the central authorities that this matter will be resolved once and for all. The authority headed by the District Collector would be allowed to decide on the issue in a time-bound manner and not take years,” he said.
He also appealed the people of Goa especially the senior citizens to come ahead and swear on the affidavit before the designated authorities stating that they wish to remove their names from the central registry of Lisbon and declare that they are Indian citizens and whatever mistake they committed consciously or unconsciously, thus be rectified.”
With the above story, one thing is clear that government does not have the data of the people who have registered their names in the central registry of Lisbon and they also have no source to find out the same. Portugal is not ready to provide any information on the same. Getting the list of people will be entirely dependent on the voluntary disclosure of the Goans that looks quite doubtful. Who wants to give up the Portuguese citizenship? What do you think? Please do leave your comments on this issue.