India plans new policy on temporary migration

India plans new policy on temporary migration
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First Published: Mon, Jun 29 2009. 11 58 PM IST
Updated: Mon, Jun 29 2009. 11 58 PM IST
New Delhi: In a new initiative, India is looking to provide citizens who are working or studying abroad with strengthened state support and introduce ratings for recruiters offering overseas employment.
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The draft policy, which is in its preparatory stages, would incorporate a broader definition of overseas workers, including professionals and students.
This policy, once finalized, is likely to result in a new law.
Currently, the Emigration Act of 1983 monitors foreign passages and the safety of only unskilled and semi-skilled workers. India, the Philippines and Mexico are the biggest exporters of labour, which fetches large remittances for their domestic economies.
“The objective (of the new policy) is to prevent human smuggling and to facilitate movement of Indians abroad for both employment and studies,” K. Mohandas, secretary at the ministry of overseas Indian affairs, said.
The recent incidents of violence against Indians in Australia has provided some urgency to the issue. At present, data on Indian citizens living outside the country is fragmented and this hamstrings the government’s efforts to rapidly respond to situations that puts Indian workers and students living abroad at risk.
The new policy could be along the lines of the general global agreement on trade in services dealing with temporary movement of workers, a counterpart of the ongoing negotiations at World Trade Organization that deals with international trade in goods.
Mohandas said India would also introduce a rating system for the nation’s 1,800-odd recruiting agencies that offer jobs abroad.
These agencies are often found to violate guidelines and mislead workers on false promises of jobs and perks.
Around 845,000 unskilled and semi-skilled workers received the mandatory emigration clearances in 2008, according to official data. Nine out of 10 outbound Indian workers travelled to West Asia for jobs.
India is one of the world’s biggest recipients of inward remittances. Private transfer receipts to the country touched $36.9 billion (Rs1.78 trillion) between April 2008 and December, according to the Reserve Bank of India.
The policy draft observes that workers no longer need to go overseas to earn high wages as India is seeing a good rate of growth. The global economic meltdown, it says, has shown that India is likely to provide more job opportunities.
Civil society groups, however, fear that India’s stance on promoting temporary migration may overstep human rights concerns on minimum wages and health insurance, which short-term, cross-border labour migration tend to ignore. The new policy, therefore, needs to be more precise on the rights of unskilled workers, they say.
“We are moving from a protective framework to a regulator of migration that is not within the (ambit of) human rights and international labour law standards,” said J. John, executive director of Centre of Education and Communications (CEC), which partnered Migrant Forum in Asia to publish a report titled Towards a Holistic International Migration Policy.
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First Published: Mon, Jun 29 2009. 11 58 PM IST