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External Affairs Minister's Keynote address at the Inaugural session of 3rd Annual Conference of Protectors of Emigrants

June 15, 2020

  • My ministerial colleague Shri Muraleedharan Ji, Secretary (CPV & OIA) Sanjay Bhattacharyya, Protector General of Emigrants, Amrit Lugun, Protector General designate Yogeshwar Sangwan, dear colleagues.
  • As Secretary (CPV) noted, this way of working today is not just a new normal I think particularly the importance of the subject that we are today discussing it is perhaps even more, it is really very timely that we are actually gathered today to look at the challenges and issues before us.
  • I am pleased to address the Third Annual Conference of the Protectors of Emigrants, one that we are doing in the digital format for the first time. The focus of the Conference is, of course, to review our policies and practices pertaining to all aspects of migration. This was always an important responsibility and one that has acquired even greater significance in the light of the Coronavirus pandemic.
  • You all know, India is today a critical source of trusted talent and competitive skills for the global economy. Perhaps more than with any other major economy, human resources are at the core of our engagement with the world. They represent a broad spectrum in terms of qualifications, income and confidence levels. Their regional distribution also reflects this diversity. Your focus, as Protectors of Emigrants, is therefore on particular geographies and those of our citizens abroad who are in greater need of support from the Government. In fact, as you all know, your role starts much earlier in the process of this emigration. You are regulators, enablers, monitors and support systems, all at the same time. It is this chain that we meet today to discuss and review, assessing our own performance while preparing for future challenges.
  • Our Government has accorded the highest priority to promoting the interests of the Indian emigrant for the last six years. We have established 3 new offices of POEs, which number 13 at present. This has extended our reach to more parts of the country, especially those areas which provide migrant flows to foreign lands. We have also promoted synergy and coordination between POE and Passport Offices. The opening of Pravasi Bharatiya Seva Kendras, numbering 5 in different parts of the country and 3 countries overseas, is another development to provide better support and services to our migrants.
  • The focus of the Government has been to provide better opportunities and welfare measures to prospective migrants. We have, therefore, been engaged in negotiations with Foreign Governments to provide ease of travel and opportunity through Migration and Mobility agreements, protection of Social Security contributions and integration of migration platforms to provide skill matching and better remuneration.
  • Among those to whom we have accorded particular priority in terms of welfare and protection are the Indians working in the Gulf region and South East Asia. We have been taking all possible efforts to reduce their vulnerabilities, curb exploitation and harassment by foreign employers as well as by unscrupulous recruitment agents. There have been significant changes in the structure and role of Recruiting Agents registered by the Ministry. Nevertheless, there are still cases of cheating, illegal agents and attempts to go for work in an irregular manner. The role of our PoEs in combating such practices is vital. You have to spread awareness and address the grievances of workers in your respective jurisdictions. We have all put in great effort to secure the interests of the most vulnerable migrants, especially blue-collar workers, seamen and women migrants. The e-Migrate system provides a robust mechanism to ensure workers’ rights and protection, in collaboration with the host governments. The integration of e-Migrate platform with those of UAE, Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries and Malaysia will facilitate these efforts greatly.
  • We have also liberalized the usage of the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) to provide welfare measures for Indians in distress overseas. This has had a particular relevance as we responded to the economic distress caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Also of note is the Pravasi Bharatiya Bima Yojana, that provides insurance cover to workers travelling overseas. Our efforts are aimed at ensuring a safe, orderly, legal and humane migration process.
  • Monitoring the skill sets of our people abroad is an intrinsic aspect of the regulation and promotion of migration. But, this also has a greater relevance today as we are looking at the prospect of returning migrants. In July 2015, the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana was launched with the National Skills Development Corporations as its implementer. Together, we have been collaborating for our Pre-Departure Orientation Training (PDOT) programme that provides soft skills regarding the customs, regulations and orientation of the country to which the workers were travelling. Clearly, much more needs to be done in this domain. The Ministry is now seeking to expand this further through skill mapping, collaboration with skill councils overseas and recognition of prior learning (RPL) such that our workers are also able to move up the value chain and earn better incomes, abroad or at home.
  • Let me also emphasize that it is essential to improve our database of migrants. We need to find ways and means to capture data in a more robust and comprehensive manner. At the same time, striking the right balance between promoting an easy emigration while ensuring safety and welfare is imperative. I am sure you will all be conscious of this as you execute your responsibilities and discuss these issues today.
  • With our regular interaction with State Governments through MEA’s State Sampark Programme, the sensitivity and involvement of State Governments in emigration management has also deepened. The States play a crucial role in ensuring that our workers going abroad have requisite skills for the jobs available. At the same time, many of our workers, who after long years of service abroad return with advanced skills and abilities, could contribute to India’s development. In fact, we are engaged in such data capture and mapping as an accompanying element of the Vande Bharat Mission that is currently underway. MEA has facilitated data flows to NSDC to develop SWADES, a database for skilled workers. Together with e-Migrate, these can become basic tools for skill-job matching for migrant workers.
  • As with the rest of the country, the Protectors of Emigrants must also rise to the challenge of reviving the post-Covid economy and engaging the post-Covid world. We are currently focused on ensuring that the negative economic consequences of the pandemic on our talent and skills abroad is mitigated. That is influenced not only by the quality of our various bilateral relationships but the overall helpful approach that we have displayed in regard to the health and economic requirements of our partners. It is imperative that we recover our market shares as quickly as possible. The coming months will see dedicated efforts in that direction. The contribution that POEs can make to facilitate this national objective is significant.
  • Let me conclude by wishing you all a very productive day. I am sure that as you deliberate on the challenges that lie ahead, you will keep in mind that your efforts can make a big difference to the lives of many people and the interests of our nation.
Thank you for your attention.

New Delhi
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