Over 20,000-25,000 migrants, who had fled religious persecution from Pakistan’s Sindh province and have not been granted Indian citizenship as yet, are being sadly deprived of vaccination and COVID relief material since they do not have Aadhaar cards.
The fate of these Pakistani Hindu migrants living in India on Long Term Visas (LTVs) in Rajasthan hangs by a thread as Central government clearances are still awaited.
According to a rediff.com report, these Hindu migrants belonging to the ‘backward classes’ and mostly reside in slums and hutments in Jodhpur in Rajasthan, and across the neighbouring districts of Pali, Jalore, Jaisalmer, Barmer, Bikaner, and Udaipur. Rajasthan medical department records suggest about 17,180 of LTV-holding Pakistanis reside in 24 slums in Jodhpur alone.
Media reports claimed that after some of the Pakistani Hindu migrants tested positive for COVID-19, in May, the Rajasthan medical and health department had ordered a door-to-door survey in 24 slums. However, in the absence of necessary documents such as Aadhaar card, their vaccination remains stuck.
In the first and the second phase of the pandemic, government-run hospitals and dispensaries refused to vaccinate these migrants because of proper documentation. And, without vaccination, they also pose a great danger to others as they could become super spreaders. Ten Pakistani Hindu migrants have died due to COVID-like symptoms and lack of medical facilities in Jodhpur, although many have recovered as well, said the rediff.com report.
After the enactment of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the migrants had hoped they would get citizenship and they would no longer be stateless. But the pandemic has exacerbated their problems.
According to a Hindustan Times report, Hindu Singh Sodha, president of Seemant Lok Sangathan pointed out that the absence of an Aadhaar card is the biggest obstacle in the vaccination of Pak migrants… “We have written a letter to the chief minister and demanded that Pakistani passports, residential permits (RP) or long term visas (LTVs) be made the basis for vaccination of Pak migrants,” said Sodha, a migrant who had come to India after the 1971 War. However, he has managed to get Indian citizenship and has been working for the cause of the migrants since then.
The Sangathan stated that the community has largely remained excluded from the process of screening, testing and treatment for COVID-19 and requested that they should be treated as “persons of special category.”
The state’s proposal to issue special ration cards to migrant families by considering them as “special citizens” under the National Food Security Act is also awaiting Centre’s nod. Meanwhile, the High Court too has asked the Rajasthan government how such persons could be tested for COVID adding that there was a standard operating procedure for vaccinating people without prescribed identity cards.
However, since the Union government’s SOP failed to provide clarity on Pakistani migrants, the state government is awaiting further instructions. While the migrants continue to live in uncertainty, a situation made worse with the threat of COVID in the air.