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The lackadaisical approach towards Indian expatriates

The lackadaisical approach towards Indian expatriates

The Central Government has withdrawn the order making it mandatory for Indians working on employment visa in 18 countries, including the six Gulf countires. The withdrawal of the order dated 14 November came on 28 November, and it was clarified that it was made in the light of objections and criticisms from expatriate organizations and other related quarters.

The mess up in the matter of e-migrate registration is the latest, and the most typical, illustration of the lackadaisal and irresponsible manner in which expatriates' issues are handled by the Central Government. The order dated 14 November, had specified not only that the registration should be done before 31 December. It also contained a warning that those who report for boarding without the registration would be offloaded.

The sequence of events went roughly like this: one fine morning, in the minds of some officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MEA), a brainwave strikes; and for enforcing that idea, they allow a time limit of merely a month and a half. Which means that those Indians scattered in 18 different countries, and engaged in different occupations have to complete the registration in a matter of just forty-five days. And those who fail to do so would not be allowed to emplane. It is a section of Indian nationals, who are instrumental in earning the highest share of foreign exchange, that is being bullied in this manner. Whether this has any legal validity is a matter yet to be ascertained. It was natural, that the moment the order was issued, a kind of panic gripped those working abroad. And whoever came to know about it, started logging in to the e-migrate portal which the Centre had opened in 2015, to initiate the registration process. With such a large number of users trying to login within such a short span of time, the portal started showing signs of crashing. And when people were frantically rushing to complete the online process, there came the order withdrawing the said requirement. The latest is that although it is not compulsory, those who voluntarily do it can do so.

It was in 2015 that MEA set up the e-migrate portal with the laudable objectives of consolidating the data and statistics of those engaged in employment abroad, saving the expatriates from labour exploitation and recruitment scams, and making the recruiting process scientific. In a country without dependable data about its own citizens working overseas, any body would welcome such a move. But what the Central Government has proven through the bungling of e-registration is that it cannot do even that with efficiency. Still it begs the question whether a plan started with good intentions is to be scrapped entirely, or made more efficient with longer timeline and with wider facilities.

It is not the first time that the government is withdrawing a plan related to expatriate Indians. In January this year, the central government went back from a project of issuing orange colour passport to the unskilled labour working abroad. When this scheme of classifying expatriate labour into two, and stigmatizing one of them provoked wide protests, it was withdrawn. In other words, MEA can be suspected to be in such a state that the whims of some officials with no particular home work are promptly released as decisions. But the ministry seems to be blissfully oblivious of the fact that their indolence is at the expense of our citizens living far away and cut off from their native land and home and fighting against odds to have a livelihood. Such orders and their instant withdrawals are enough to show how callously and thoughtlessly the Central Government is deliberating on the issues affecting our diaspora. Another example of the same approach is the long wait until non-resident Indians' voting rights was eventually recognized. Even now, when that has been accepted in principle, the practical steps to make it a reality, have not yet gained the required momentum.

There are countries which adopt a highly respectful and scientific approach in handling the affairs of their citizens working nabroad. Indian expatriates are used to quoting the example of the Philippines government for the steps it takes for the welfare of their citizens working overseas. But, south Asian countries including India are known to be miserably lagging behind in this. Though late, at least hence the government should take the matter of Indian workforce abroad with a little more of sincerity and seriousness.

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