Managing the Migration Cycle: Streamlining and Supporting Indian Worker’s Emigration to ECR Countries

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Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) is celebrated on 9 January every year to strengthen the engagement of the overseas Indian community with the Government, reconnect them with their roots and celebrate their achievements and contributions. PBD is celebrated on January 9 as it was on this day in 1915, Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest Pravasi, returned to India from South Africa to lead India’s freedom struggle.

In 2015, the Government of India revised the format of PBD and re-energized its engagement with the Indian Diaspora to enable sustained and more substantive engagement. Following the review, the PBD Convention will be held once in two years in a city outside Delhi. In the intervening year, smaller, outcome-based PBD Conferences will be organized in New Delhi on issues of concern to the Indian Diaspora. It was decided that Indian Missions and Consulates will also celebrate PBD every year.

Through the first series of PBD Conferences which commenced in February 2016 the Government is proactively engaging with the Overseas Indians in an issue-based dialogue.

As a run up to PBD 2017, 10 PBD Conferences (panel discussions) have been held in 2016 on issues of importance to the Indian Diaspora. Domain experts from the Diaspora, stakeholders and policy makers based in India have been invited for day-long deliberations on various topics. Their recommendations have been submitted to the Government of India for consideration. At the 14th PBD Convention in January 2017, each PBD Conference will present their recommendations and the Action Taken Report to PBD delegates for their suggestions and comments.

The 14thPBD Convention January 2017:

PBD 2017 which will focus on the theme “Redefining engagement with the Indian Diaspora will

  • Provide a platform for connecting with the Diaspora.
  • Address issues of concern to the Indian Diaspora and seek their insights and suggestions.
  • Deepen engagement with the young Diaspora and reconnect them with their roots.

Background for Plenary Session III(ii)

This session on “Managing the Migration Cycle: Streamlining and Supporting Indian Worker’s Emigration to ECR Countries “aims at examining the issues and discuss solutions concerning the migration of Indian workers to notified ECR countries.

As part of the year-long PBD Conferences held during 2016, an exclusive panel on “Managing the Migration Cycle: Streamlining and Supporting Indian Worker’s Emigration to ECR Countries “was organised on 28th June 2016 in New Delhi. The panel was attended by domain experts from the Indian Diaspora, officials from State Governments, representatives of multilateral institutions working on migration, policy makers, and other stakeholders.
Hon'ble EAM, Smt. Sushma Swaraj, who chaired the Panel Discussion, highlighted the key issues concerning the migration of workers to ECR countries and steps already taken by the Ministry. She desired that the panel may discuss ways to strengthen the eco-system to support migrant workers in all stages of the migration cycle, from pre-departure to return and reintegration.

Some of the important recommendations made by the participants would include:

  • Engage with ECR countries, especially in the GCC, to conclude comprehensive labour agreements covering General Category Workers and Domestic Service Workers.
  • Attempts should be made towards standard employment contracts for various categories of workers in line with local labour laws of destination countries.
  • Ensure that female workers in the DSW & Nurses categories should be recruited only through State Government run Recruitment Agencies. A ban on migration of DSWs is not optimal solution as it would lead to illegal migration.
  • All awareness programs and media campaigns should be strategized around Ministry’s key motto 'Surakshit Jaayein, Prishikshit Jaayein'.
  • Educating and empowering the prospective migrants is essential. Booklets containing useful information about destination country could be distributed prior to departure from India, apart from providing such pre-departure orientation. In case of domestic sector workers, the orientation process can be on lines adopted by Sri Lank and Philippines.
  • Awareness about banned/narcotic substances or carrying of essential medicines without prescriptions, should be done as part of pre-departure orientation
  • Integrating India’s e-migrate system with that of electronic contract registration and validation systems of host countries to address issues concerning illegal migration
  • Stringent action against unscrupulous recruiting agents/agencies
  • Strict screening of Indians holding ECR passports while travelling on tourist visas to notified countries
  • Imparting appropriate skills and provide certifications recognised by destination countries, and create necessary infrastructure in India
  • Linking insurance companies with e-Migrate portal for purchase of policy and settlement of claims
  • Simplify the procedures for Pravasi Bharatiya Bima Yojana (PBBY) to address delays in settlement of insurance claims
  • Authorising missions to issue death certificates for insurance claims
  • All State Governments may consider establishing NRI Departments on the lines of NORKA in Kerala
  • Regular counselling of workers to be organised by Indian Missions/Posts
  • All State Governments to have contingency plans to provide temporary relief to low-earning returnees
  • Exclusive Cooperation Agreements with GCC countries to prevent human trafficking.
  • State Governments to have contingency plans to provide temporary relief to returnee workers from low-earning categories.
  • Greater participation by India in international forums dealing with international migration.

The recommendations of the PBD Conference were submitted for consideration and follow up.

The Plenary session in PBD 2017 will discuss the above recommendations, including steps already taken by the Ministry of External Affairs. The session proposes to focus on key priority of the Government towards strengthening welfare and protection of Indian nationals abroad. It would also discusss the present regulatory and support framework. Since most of the welfare programs are implemented by Indian Missions/Posts, the session would focus on their role in helping the migrant workers. Other issues such as skill upgradation, standard employment contracts, awareness campaigns, pre-departure orientation, concerns of vulnerable categories of workers, role of State Governments, collaboration with destination countries, will also be deliberated.

Some of the important issues for discussion in the session include:

  • Ways to ensure safe migration with an enhanced skill set-'Surakshit Jaayein, Prishikshit Jaayein'.
  • Dialogue with the destination countries through Labour MoUs and Cooperation Agreements to prevent human trafficking
  • Role of State Governments in ensuring the welfare of migrant workers and returnees
  • Integration of India’s e-migrate system with that of the host countries
  • Appropriate skill training program and internationally recognised Qualifications for Indian workers
  • Revisiting India’s current regulatory framework
  • Ensure better migration management from India to enhance the development impact of migration on origin and host countries, migrants, and their families
  • Stringent action against erring recruiting agencies