“The authorities asked me to furnish papers to prove that I had renounced my Indian citizenship. Both my adoptive parents died over 10 years ago and I didn’t have the documents,” says the 38-year-old.
Germany-based Swati Foerster had begun her journey of finding her biological mother a decade ago and she had been making several trips to India. She had managed to trace her biological mother in October, last year, and had again visited India in February to meet her elder sister Kalpana. However, her third trip to the country didn’t turn out to be as smooth. Till a day prior to her flying from Germany, she didn’t have a visa in her hand.
“The authorities asked me to furnish papers to prove that I had renounced my Indian citizenship. Both my adoptive parents died over 10 years ago and I didn’t have the documents,” says the 38-year-old, adding that was the beginning of her long ordeal.
For over a week, she says, she kept contacting the visa authorities. She also contacted Arun Dohle, executive director of NGO Against Child Trafficking (ACT) who contacted Ministry of External Affairs as well as embassies.
“Finally, the visa authorities asked me to produce a document to prove that I have been a German citizen. I submitted my old passport of 1999. I kept contacting them. I got the visa in the afternoon, a day before my flight from Germany,” says Foerster, who is settled in Homburg and works as a neurologist in a hospital.
Most adoptees based abroad face what Foerster did, says Anjali Pawar, the director of NGO Sakhee and consultant to ACT, Dutch Foundation. “Since 2009, we have been fighting for adoptees who have been deported from different countries. Some are on the way to be deported back. Under the Constitution, Indians cannot have two citizenships. On the other hand, the German government allows two citizenships,” she says.
Pawar says that the government should help adoptees in a situation like Swati’s. “They should be issued Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) Card and it should be free-of-cost. Not all adoptees can afford to pay,” she says.
Pawar says that in the case of Foerster, due to a rule introduced by the Indian government over a year ago, she had to renounce her Indian citizenship. “She has been coming to India since 2007, but never faced any problem. She is 1978-born. Her adoptive parents are no more. How is she supposed to get these documents?” asks Pawar.
Foerster was adopted by a couple, based in Germany, in 1979 from city-based adoption agency Mahila Sevagram. Her mother, who now lives in an old age home in Pune, had two daughters. She was abandoned by her parents as well as the father of the children.
Forester met her mother, sister and her two kids again, this time. “It’s been a long journey. The adoption agency refused to help me for years. One cannot deny a person the right to know her parents,” says Foerster.
“In 2011, even Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) recognised that adoptees have the right to get details of their biological parents. However, barring a few, most adoption agencies are not following the rule and keep denying rights to the adoptees,” says Pawar, adding that ACT filed a petition with the Supreme Court in 2012, demanding that all states in the country should archive details of all the adoptees.