Indians can enjoy visa-free travel to 22 countries, according to Passport Index, an interactive and real-time ranking tool maintained by Arton Capital ( Table 1). Three of these countries (Nepal, Bhutan and Mauritius) are in the neighbourhood. There are quite a few Caribbean countries on the list such as Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago besides two Latin American countries (El Salvador and Haiti). Three of the countries are in the Pacific Islands — Micronesia, Vanuatu and Fiji (with a high proportion of Indian-origin citizens), while two African countries provide this facility (Gambia and Senegal). Only one European country — Serbia — allows visa-free travel for Indians.
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According to the index, India ranked a joint 69th in 2022 in terms of ease of mobility of travel to other countries. This ease of travel was measured in terms of the availability of visa-free regimes or visa on arrival for Indians in other countries.
While India marginally improved in the index (its rank jumped four places from 73 in 2021), it still ranked below many Asian and developing countries. Countries such as South Africa (ranked 46), China (59), Brazil (11) and Russia (37) ranked higher, while India did better compared to other South Asian countries. The largely immigrant-populated UAE was ranked No. 1, followed by European and other developed countries. South Korea (joint 2nd) and Japan (4th) ranked the highest among Asian countries.
More than 9.58 crore passports have been issued in India as of December 8, 2022, according to a reply given by the Ministry of External Affairs in the Lok Sabha recently. This amounts to nearly 7% of India’s projected population in 2022.
A State-wise breakup ( Chart 2) shows that Kerala had both the highest number (nearly 1.13 crore) and the highest proportion (an estimated 31.6% of the State’s population) of passport holders in the country. This is not surprising as Kerala is one of the States that has a high expatriate population and also is heavily dependent on remittances (10.2% of all inward remittances to India went to the State as of FY21, according to a recent Reserve Bank of India bulletin). Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu were placed second and third in terms of the absolute number of passports. Tamil Nadu was placed higher than Maharashtra in terms of the estimated proportion of population with passports (12.7% versus 8.4%).
In terms of the proportion of population with passports, Kerala was placed first again. It was followed by Punjab (25.3%), Delhi (18.6%), Telangana (13.2%) and Tamil Nadu (12.7%) among the major States and Union Territories. Goa was placed first among the smaller States (29.4%). Kerala was also placed first in the metric of passports not renewed (more than 10 lakh) followed by Tamil Nadu (8.84 lakh), Karnataka (7.73 lakh) and Maharashtra (6.49 lakh).
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Among districts ( Chart 3), Mumbai had the highest total number of passports issued (35,56,067) followed by Bengaluru (34,63,405), Malappuram (19,32,622), Chennai (18,85,855), Hyderabad (18,06,329), Ahmedabad (14,95,009) and Pune (14,52,236). While the estimated district population is difficult to arrive at, as Census 2021 has not yet begun operations, the projected district population based on Aadhaar saturation data shows that the estimated proportion of the population in Malappuram with passports could be close to 47.1%, among the highest in the country.
Each circle depicts a district in a State/Union Territory. Hover over the chart to find the exact number of passports issued in a district
Source: www.passportindex.org, Lok Sabha questions (Ministry of External Affairs)
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