What has been the main focus area for you since the last PBD in Chennai?
My constant effort has been to set up institutional structures. These institutions will partner the Government in India’s engagement with its diaspora. They will prove revolutionary in enhancing the links between India and overseas Indians. They will be very useful for the development of India.
What about labour mobility?
Our primary focus is on Europe. Indian labour mobility within European countries is of prime concern to us. The Government has set up the Indian Council of Overseas Employment (ICOE) to serve as a Think Tank for the promotion of overseas employment, better protection and welfare of overseas Indian workers and for the study of emerging overseas employment opportunities. One of the objectives of the ICOE is to study and analyze the trends in international labour markets. The ICOE is undertaking a study through the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on labour market assessment in six EU countries—France, Denmark, Czech Republic, Sweden, Romania and Poland. In addition, it has finalized a cooperation agreement with the European University Institute, Florence for collaborative research and studies relating to mobility of people between India and the European Union (EU).
The ICOE is undertaking a study through the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on labour market assessment in six EU countries—France, Denmark, Czech Republic, Sweden, Romania and Poland. In addition, it has finalized a cooperation agreement with the European University Institute, Florence
What is your assessment of the situation in the Gulf?
There is a certain level of concern. We do not, however, see large-scale job losses, people are still emigrating for employment purposes, and the return migration is not very visible. Remittances too haven’t dipped. We are sure that things will pick up. We are also focused on bringing about emigration reforms and have a new emigration law. Systemic changes are being brought about, emigration is being made hassle-free, we are better able to crackdown on offences like smuggling of women. We have been undertaking awareness campaigns for intending emigrants. A comprehensive e-Governance project is being developed to make the process simpler, more effective and accountable and to establish appropriate linkages across stakeholders to prevent irregularities and malpractices. The Union Cabinet has approved setting up of the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) at Indian missions in 17 countries to meet contingency expenditure incurred for carrying out various onsite welfare activities for overseas Indian citizens who are in distress.
What about other new institutions that are coming up?
We have institutions like the Indian Development Fund (IDF). This is a new trust set up by the Government of India for facilitating philanthropic investments into India in any sector of national priority, by any credible NGO. Essentially it facilities the channeling of charitable donations from overseas Indians who may wish to contribute towards specific social developmental causes in India but may not know how to go about it. We have the Global INK. It has been designed as an electronic platform through which overseas Indians can offer their knowledge skills to the Government of India on a voluntary basis without physically moving from their location overseas. The beneficiaries could be an NGO or a Governmental agency in any area of social development. In such instances the expertise and experience of the NRI concerned can be of help.