India has been home to one of the longest and largest episodes of emigration in the world, from the Second Century BC, when Alexander the Great took back Indians to Central Asia and Europe, to the present times where Indians, moving out on their own volition, form one of the world’s largest populations of emigrants.
The positive aspect –
- A large emigrant population has many benefits for India: the much-discussed international remittances (which touched $80 billion in 2018), and also a positive impact on foreign direct investments, trade and foreign relations.
- The Indian diaspora also provides much needed philanthropic activities in health and education to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Of course, they do fund political parties of their choice during the elections.
Need for new Bill –
- In order to safeguard the rights and welfare of emigrants, the government enacted the Emigration Act, 1983. Perhaps it was an Act that was ‘formulated with the mindset of the 19th century, enacted in the 20th century and implemented in the 21st century’.
- In the last 35 years, to cite the government, “the nature, pattern, directions, and volume of migration have undergone a paradigm shift”. So, in an effort to update and upgrade this framework, a draft Emigration Bill, 2019 was released.
Provisions of the Bill –
- The draft Bill includes all students and migrant workers within its purview and the abolishment of the two passports (emigration clearance required and emigration clearance not required, or ECR and ECNR) regime based on a person’s educational qualifications. This will significantly improve the collection of migration flow data when compared to the current system.
- Indians reuniting with family members abroad (who can be Indian emigrants, non-resident Indians and/or foreign nationals) constitute a major chunk of out-migration from India. Many family migrants often convert their immigration status and become workers, which is a factor not given thought in the 2019 draft Bill.
- Another excluded category is that of undocumented migrants. The perception is that undocumented migrants are those persons who leave India through informal channels, but most migrants become irregular on account of expired visas/permits.
- The draft Bill incorporates many already established ad hoc regulations and obligations for recruiting agents. It also includes subagents (often a relative or friend of the potential emigrant) and student enrolment agencies into its regulatory purview. These intermediaries play an instrumental role in minimising information asymmetries and migration costs.
Points for consideration –
- In the past decade, while emigration from India to West Asia has been decreasing, emigration from Bangladesh to this region has increased in the same period, which is attributed to a more liberal emigration policy. This suggests that the prescribed regulatory process in India has inadvertently created barriers to migration.
- Further, given that student enrolment agencies have a different business model and a completely different customer base, i.e. students applying overseas, it is unclear why they are prescribed the same regulations as recruitment agents.
- To effectively ensure the welfare of return emigrants, any emigration policy framework needs to be considerate of the complete migration cycle: the pre-departure, journey, destination and return. The 2019 draft Bill addresses only the first three parts of the cycle while completely ignoring return migration.
Analysing the Bill –
- Many of the oversights in the draft Bill reiterate the government’s restricted understanding of migration from India; there is no complete database number of Indian migrants abroad.
- There is also an erroneous assumption that Indian migrants in a developed destination country have sufficient protection and welfare.
- The draft Bill personifies the government’s primary view of emigration policy as a means for managing the export of human resources rather than a humanitarian framework to safeguard Indian migrants overseas.
Migration is a complex and highly dynamic process with constantly evolving profiles of migrants and their destinations. Only an ex ante-migrant rights-based approach that is inclusive of all Indian migrants abroad can be considerate of this and provide them adequate security and welfare.
Source – The Hindu