The Centre’s latest decision to merge the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) with the External Affairs Ministry is clearly an unexpected move without any proper analysis that is likely to affect the interest of overseas Indians.
The proposal cleared by the Prime Minister Modi was put forward by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who said that the decision was in line with the government’s principle of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’. The MOIA was set up 12 years ago for addressing the matters pertaining to the Indian diaspora and two separate Ministers have been handling the two Ministries since then. Swaraj said that there wasn’t a need for two Ministries as all the procedures related to the expatriates were carried out by the same nodal agency. The organisations and groups of the overseas Indians alleged that it was the failure of the government in comprehending the emotions as well as the problems faced by them that was reflected in the move. They also pointed out that Modi who, during his visit to UAE boasted of his government in resolving the issues of the expatriates, have broken his promise. The move shows the Centre’s affinity to wealthy business giants and neglect towards the ordinary Indian expatriates in foreign countries. All the allegations raised against the MOIA couldn’t be dismissed as baseless. It was in 2004, during the stint of Dr Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister, that a separate Ministry was formed for looking into the matters concerning the expatriates. It’s true that the service of Vayalar Ravi who was in charge of the Ministry wasn’t satisfactory to the expatriates as he failed to rise up to their expectations and to achieve the goals. A budget less than a mere Rs 100 crore and ten officials were the only basic resources received for the Ministry to function. Aimless leadership and neglecting the wealth and political aspects made things worse. It was amidst this mess that the expatriates hoped for a pleasant future believing the words of the PM. But things only turned grim.
If the overseas Indians who bring in one lakh crore foreign money feel they have been betrayed, they couldn’t be blamed for it. The operations of the Ministry isn’t satisfactory doesn’t mean the whole concept is wrong. Earlier, there was a joint secretary to look into the matters of expatriates under the Ministry of External Affairs. But due to the inefficiency of the system, the MOIA came into existence followed by the recommendation of a higher committee. Connecting the overseas Indians with their home country, reducing the exploitations experienced by them in the employment sector, making the economic-emigration-management services available to the expatriates, letting know the information on time and also make assistance available during emergency situations were the prime goals. The services of MOIA weren’t available for everyday requirements. The External Affairs Ministry that should be focusing more on the diplomacy matters, wouldnt be able to function in a way approachable by the ordinary expatriates. This led to the formation of a separate Ministry. Functioning since 12 years, even though it hasn’t fully utilized its opportunities, the Ministry has been able to provide many services to the people. The ordinary Indians overseas are aware of the advantages due to the productive intervention of the Ministry in matters including issues related to the journey and emigration of the expatriates , their rehabilitation, right to vote, double tax and handing over of prisoners. They had demanded to make the Ministry more service-oriented by eliminating all constraints. But the centre’s move has toppled all efforts. A few argue about not requiring the MOIA citing the incidents where the expatriates were saved during critical situations from other countries by the External Affairs Ministry. The responsibility of MOIA is not ‘crisis management’ but in functioning as a system that lends a patient ear to the issues of the expatriates and taking steps to resolve it. There are lots of trivial issues still unknown to those at the peak of External Affairs Ministry. It’s a system that has been listening to the woes of the ordinary overseas Indians that has been chopped off.