Ahmedabad: The Union cabinet’s decision, taken on July 13, to change the rules for persons living in India on long-term visas (LTV) has cheered Pakistani Hindus and Sindhis, who have been living in the city and other parts of the state for many years.
The notification of the decision has not reached collectors’ offices in the state. Sources said that the Ahmedabad collectorate has deferred an LTV-processing camp for Pakistani nationals so that the new rules can be incorporated in the procedure. The camp was scheduled for July 19 and 20. The new rules will enable people living on LTVs to open bank accounts, purchase property for self-occupation, engage in self-employment, and secure driving licence and PAN card. Once the rules are implemented, free movement will be allowed within the state stipulated in the LTV. These norms will apply to people from minority communities of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan: Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians.
Ram Bhimani, a Pakistani national who has an LTV, said that the new visa regime would immensely help people with limited means – application fees will be reduced from Rs 5,000 to Rs 100. “With a chance to work on our own identity, it will truly be a start of achche din,” he said. Amar Lohana, another Pakistani, said that he still remembers how police at Haridwar had arrested him because his LTV showed Ahmedabad as his location. “With the new rules, it will be possible to move within the state without restrictions,” he said. Officials said that new dates for the LTV camp would be declared soon. Around 700 applications are pending with the collector’s office. Officials said that the notification would address a number of problems. Mahadev Lohana, a member of Thari Lohana community of Pakistan, outlined one such problem. He said that his community members had to depend on others for financial transactions and finding shelter. “This decision will help us avoid cheating and exploitation,” he said.