Gulf based Goans are evincing a renewed interest in the possibility of obtaining a Portuguese passport, over half a century after the European colonial power sailed out of Mormugao port in the only war where one shot was fired. Legend has it that even that artillery shell tanked. Anyway, the new craze was sparked in the Salcette Taluka of Goa where as many as 200 applicants line up every day in the hope that their lottery comes through. The word has spread and many an NRI from there is thinking of this option.
Gulf NRIs do not see it as an anti-Indian move. “It is only a convenience,” says Robbie D’Souza, who deals in property, “With the tough climb to get visas to the west, such a passport would come real in handy. It facilitates movement and if the papers work for you, why not.” Benny Furtado who comes from Salcette says there is no stigma attached to the effort and if people can go to Canada or Australia and that be seen as a strategic move how is this treacherous? It is the same thing. I have applied and if I get it, I will take it.” The underlying stress and the accusatory tone comes from the fact that Catholic Goans by virtue of their baptism papers and their birth certificates being authenticated by the church are in a better position than non-Catholics who often do not even have recorded evidence. Thus the need for a teor (the birth certificate of a person born during Portugese rule or a copy of the marriage certificate) which is mandated becomes almost impossible. Consequently, if your grandparents were born before 1961 you can be eligible (see attached list) but you can grow old trying to prove it. However, it is bit of a muchness because the records in modern Goa are tattered, torn and out of sync. Several years are missing. They have not been maintained with any registrar. As such only the Christians have a slim chance by using baptism and marriage certificates of mostly their grandparents.
Well into the third generation from when the Portuguese ruled the territory, Goans are hard placed to exercise what some of them feel is a right to Portuguese nationality. They know their grandparents were born and bred in Goa pre-1961 but how do you prove it? Every week as many as a thousand reportedly trek to their priest in the hope of locating Grandpa and Grandma’s certificates. The applicants who apply for copies of marriage certificates and teors issued during this particular period are directly told to call it quits and back off. And this is only the first step because financially bruised Lisbon is no longer falling over backwards to take in newcomers from erstwhile colonies like Brazil and now Chinese Macau. With each passing day the hope fades. Like boxer Mohammed Ali said about George Foreman’s chances; slim to none.