The sudden introduction of the "original document" requirement by the Portuguese authorities in Goa some years back to process the application for the Portuguese passport has put many processes of Goans on the back burner.
It has also led to Goans lamenting at the insensitivity of Portuguese authorities in this regard. However it is to be pondered as to why such a requirement may have been introduced by Portugal before jumping to conclusions.
Documents required for application of nationality
Firstly we need to reflect on the documentation that is required of us to apply for the Portuguese passport which is quite detailed here. If one introspects these requirements , there are broadly two important documents which state authorities in Goa are expected to issue after following a prescribed procedure.
Two major documents
The two documents in question are the residence certificate and the Indian passport. Besides these two documents the rest of the documents are public documents and anybody can apply for these documents without producing one's identity which means that a person can apply and obtain somebody else's birth and marriage documents simply by applying for it and the applicant need not be the person in question with the birth or marriage.
Impersonation of identity
This raises a very pertinent situation. Anybody who is able to apply and obtain my birth and marriage records is also able to impersonate my identity and apply for the Portuguese passport in my name. However he/she also needs to make an Indian passport in my name and a residence certificate issued in my name. Sadly, these two documents are known to be mired in corrupt practices in the country and are known to be generated through mischief and fraud by people in India through various machinations.
Fraud and misrepresentation
A couple of years back we had a burning issue in Goa regarding the residence certificate which was issued to noted actor Sanjay Dutt and Manyata in order to help them get married in Goa despite the two never residing in Goa. Later, after an uproar and the media highlighting the issue, it forced the establishment in Goa to take notice and temporarily suspend the bureaucrat who was however back in the saddle soon. Besides this, there are several cases of misrepresentation which have gone unreported and undetected. Thus it is evident that the issuance of the residence certificate does not actually follow prescribed procedures and cannot be relied upon at all.
Regarding the Indian passport, there have been numerous cases of fake passports in circulation and such rackets are known to have been unearthed regularly by authorities an India. Some of these are with connivance of the concerned departments and some others are blatantly behind the scenes. The threat of a fake passport doing the rounds in India is therefore very much real.
Why the original document
In the backdrop of such disturbing information available with the Portuguese authorities, it was also discovered that many applicants had already forged their identities and had fraudulently applied and obtained Portuguese passports by impersonating genuine and eligible Goans thereby circumventing the whole policy of Portuguese nationality for Goans.
There was therefore a grave need to identify the genuine Goans who were eligible as per the requirements which were falling short of exercising maximum introspection of an applicant. The policy for introducing the "original document" requirement from Goans has probably been a fallout of such a dilemma.
What original document does, which other documents don't
The original document seeks to clarify the identity of the applicant to a very high and reasonable degree of verification thereby protecting the interests of Goans who cannot be impersonated due to the stumbling block caused by the requirement of the original document. By seeking such a document, the Portuguese authorities are taking maximum precaution to ensure that the genuine applicants are granted the nationality and the impersonators are discouraged from even presenting the application. Very often such original documents have a photograph which helps to identify the applicant without much doubt.
However it seems that the whole requirement of the original document has made it impossible for many Goans to even think of making the Portuguese passport due to the futility of locating such a document.
Time for a more friendly, but foolproof system?
The Portuguese authorities should therefore appoint a reliable and distinguished panel of Goans who are known for theirs honest credentials as their arbitrators in Goa to scrutinize, identify, interview, check, verify and dispose off genuine applications without the need of an original document. A panel of arbitrators would also rule out any favouritism or bias towards any applicant by any remote possibility since the panel will have a number of members on its desk and not just one member.This will help many genuine applicants from Goa to pursue their dream of claiming the Portuguese nationality which has been eluding Goans for various reasons.
However Goans have to understand that the current requirement of seeking the "original document" by the Portuguese authorities is a genuine concern and not merely a ploy to deny Goans the Portuguese nationality.