The Indian government is considering a proposal aimed to simplify the procedures for granting Indian citizenship to minority Hindus from Pakistan, the Times of India reported on Sunday. 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, an Indian Home Ministry official was quoted as saying. Thousands of Hindus have left Pakistan to escape persistent harassment. When they reach India, they are viewed suspiciously by many people and are treated callously by the Indian government that has done little to help them settle in. A member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani had earlier revealed in the National Assembly that around 5,000 Hindus migrate from Pakistan to India every year. New Delhi had last year announced that Bangladeshis and Pakistanis belonging to minority communities there, who had entered India legally before December 31, 2014, could stay in the country, even if their documents had lapsed. The refugees from Pakistan mostly land up in Rajasthan as the short journey from Thar Express makes it convenient for them, but lately many of them are heading for a rural settlement called Bijwasan on the outskirts of Delhi. 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 Indian 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 said adding that the Indian government has sought public comments and suggestions on the measures proposed. 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 2 million such people, mostly Hindus and Sikhs.
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