During the 2022 French Presidential elections, much was reported about several Indian-origin French nationals residing in Puducherry and two other towns falling under it.
The other towns are Karaikal in Tamil Nadu and Mahe in Kerala, once French colonies in India.
However, there was hardly any news about one more Puducherry town — Yanam, another former French colony in India.
It is home to a small community of Telugu-speaking French citizens. More than 50 Telugu-speaking families holding French citizenship voted from this vibrant town.
Where is Yanam, former French colony in India?
Yanam is about 30 kilometres from both Kakinada town in the East Godavari district and Amalapuram town in the Konaseema district of Andhra Pradesh.
The farthest picturesque enclave of Puducherry is geographically a part of Andhra Pradesh and lies on the banks of the Gouthami-Godavari river.
Incidentally, the Coringa river also merges with the Godavari at Yanam.
How many French citizens in India’s Yanam?
“There are 53 French votes of 50 families in Yanam, while more than 200 families stay in France at present. Originally, it was just these 50 families, but the numbers grew as the families kept growing,” SVV Satyanarayana, locally popular as Sadanala Babu, told South First.
A French citizen by birth, the 56-year-old holds a voluntary position as the designated liaison between France’s government and Yanam’s French citizens.
Why French citizenship to India residents?
On 1 November, 1954, Yanam gained independence from the French regime along with other French colonies — Puducherry, Karaikal, and Mahe.
It is famous by the name “French Yanam” for possessing a blend of French and Telugu culture termed Frelugu.
Several Yanam residents, including Babu’s father — Sadanala Satyanarayana, a brigadier in the French Army — used to work for the French government such as the Army and PWD.
After Independence, the French government offered citizenship to the people living in its colonies, with an opportunity to live in mainland France.
As per estimates, some 10,000 people chose French nationality in Yanam.
“After Yanam residents retired from French government service, they settled in different parts of France, but a few of their descendants stayed here. Around 200 Telugu-speaking families are in France right now,” explained Babu, who is fluent in French.
In this year’s French Presidential elections, Babu supported Macron. “Most of us again were supporting Emmanuel Macron (re-elected President) as benefits including pensions have gone up during his time,” he said.
The benefits they get
Many of Yanam’s French citizens receive financial support from the French government.
Some are people who went to France after Yanam’s independence and continued working for the French government and retired.
“They get a pension of around €1,500 (around ₹1.3 lakh) and if they die, their families get it,” Babu noted.
His mother Anusuya, a naturalised French citizen from Yanam, resides in Troyes in France and receives his father’s guddi pinchanu (pension).
“My mother gets an old-age pension of around €930 (around ₹81,000). She submitted her documents in 2004 and became a French citizen soon after that. Like all elderly French citizens,” Babu, also the president of the Yanam French People Association, said.
He added that his mother also gets 50 percent house rent, free medical, insurance, transport, and other facilities.
“But she has to stay there for six months as they check every six months to ensure that the senior citizen is present in the country and safe,” Babu said.
Babu’s son Sadanala Satyaveerendra (24) and daughter Sadanala Anusha (26) also stay with their grandmother in France.
“Even children get special treatment, like free education and a monthly allowance,” Babu noted.
Meanwhile, Yanam citizens who never held French government jobs and never even visited France receive monthly security payments of about €200 or €300 (₹15,000 or ₹21,000).
“This is because they or their descendants opted for French citizenship,” Babu said.
Professionally a superintendent at the town’s BR Ambedkar Polytechnic College, Babu also plans to relocate to France.
How do residents of India, Yanam, vote in French elections?
The French population from India’s Yanam either travel to the French consulate in Puducherry or cast their vote by proxy.
“But this time we did not travel to Puducherry. We used the facility of procurement votes (proxy votes), through which we can authorise the consulate authorities to vote on our behalf,” said Babu.
“The consulate official came here and collected proxy votes from us,” he explained.
If their blood relatives are in France, they can use the same proxy votes facility to cast a ballot on their behalf.