Year-End-Review of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs for the year 2011
Several Social Security and Labour Agreements signed for Welfare of Overseas Indians
2011 was an eventful year for Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs with several Labour and Social Security agreements signed with foreign countries for protection and betterment of Indian workers and professionals. An equally large number of initiatives were taken for constructive and mutually beneficial engagement with the Indian Diaspora. Some highlights are given below.
Bilateral Labour Agreements for Migrant Workers
Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has entered into Bilateral Labour Agreements with UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan and Malaysia. Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has taken several initiatives for safeguarding the welfare and protection of Indian workers going abroad. The Bilateral Labour Agreements include (i) Establishment of Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) in the Indian Missions to provide immediate relief to the Indian workers in need and distress, (ii) Overseas Workers Resource Centre (OWRC) at New Delhi. This centre has 24x7 helpline and walk-in counseling centre to provide information and to handle workers problems. This centre uses 8 Indian languages and has a toll free number. (iii) Bilateral Social Security Agreements (SSA) for protection of the interests of Indian professionals going abroad and (iv) Indian Workers Resource Centre (IWRC) at Dubai for providing information to the Indian workers and to handle their problems.
Revised MoU on Manpower with UAE
A revised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on manpower was signed in September 2011. The MoU will strengthen the symbiotic relationship and mutual cooperation between the two countries. The revised MoU will boost the initiative of the Ministry in implementing Web Based Attestation Procedure for employment contracts for emigrant workers in UAE by the Embassy of India, Abu Dhabi. A need has been felt over the years to revise the MoU, which was signed between India and the UAE in December, 2006 to address various problems faced by the Indian emigrant workers in the UAE. The MoU in the field of manpower between India and the UAE provides (i) Facilitation of the recruitment of Indian manpower for working in the UAE (ii) Broad procedure for employment of workers; Responsibilities of the employers and workers (iii) Exchange of knowledge and experience in job-creation and generation of employment opportunity iv) Protection and welfare of workers under the labour laws and regulations of the host country (v) Authentication of the work contract between the Employer and the employee by the Ministry of Labour, Government of UAE (Vi) and (vii) Constitution of a Joint Committee comprising of at least three Members each from both the Governments to implement the provisions of the MoU.
Social Security Agreements
The Ministry has concluded the Social Security Agreements (SSA) with Belgium, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Denmark. A comprehensive SSA was signed with Germany at Berlin in October, 2011. The SSA between India and France came into force with effect from 01.07.2011 and the SSA between India and Luxembourg came into force with effect from 1st June, 2011. The administrative Arrangement of the SSA between India and the Republic of Korea was signed at Seoul in July this year. A Norwegian Delegation and a Japanese delegation visited New Delhi this year for finalization of forms of the SSA. Countries with which India has already signed SSA but the agreements have not come into force due to finalization of forms being under process are; Netherlands, Hungary, Czech Republic, Norway. The Government is in negotiations on Social Security Agreements with Portugal, Canada, Finland, Austria, Sweden, Australia and Japan. The bilateral Social Security Agreements protect the interests of Indian professionals by providing following benefits:
Exemption from social security contribution for the posted (detached) workers (provided the worker is covered under the Indian social security system and continues to pay his contribution to the Indian system during the period of contract).
Exportability of benefits in case of relocation to India or any other country after having made social security contribution.
Totalization of the periods of contribution pertaining to both countries for the purpose of assessing eligibility for benefit/pension under the legislation of each country.
Social Security Agreements provides for pension and insurance benefits to Indian workers working abroad in the countries with whom India has entered into an SSA.
9th Pravasi Bhartiya Divas
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) convention is the flagship event of the Ministry organized every year in January since 2003, with a view to connect India to its vast Indian diaspora and bringing their knowledge, expertise and skills on a common platform. The 9th edition of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention was held in New Delhi from 7th to 9th January, 2011. The Convention was inaugurated by the Prime Minister and the valedictory address was delivered by the President. The President also conferred the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award to the eminent Overseas Indians. The theme of the event was “Engaging the Global Indian”. Sir Anand Satyanand, Governor General of New Zealand was the Chief Guest for 9th PBD.
Regional Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, Canada
The fifth Regional Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) was held in Toronto from 9th and 10th June 2011 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The theme of the Conference was “Building bridges: Positioning strategies for the Indian diaspora”.
Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra
The Ground-breaking ceremony of the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra (PBK) was held in April 2011 and the construction work of building has been commenced. The PBK will be the prominent centre for Overseas Indians. It will serve as the focal point of the institutional framework to benefit from networks with and among overseas Indians. The Kendra will develop into the hub of activities for sustainable, symbiotic and mutually rewarding economic, social and cultural engagement between India and its Diaspora. The Kendra would have the facilities such as library/research centre, flexible capacity meeting rooms, Indian Cultural Centre, art auditorium and fully fledged business centres etc. The PBK will be established on three plots of lands, measuring about 9800 sq. mts. at Chanakyapuri, New Delhi.
Unveiling of Memorial plaque at Kolkata
A Memorial plaque in honour of Indian Indentured Labourers was unveiled at Kidderpore Dock, Kolkata Port to commemorate the thousands of indentured Indian workers who sailed from Kolkata Port between 1834 and 1920, to lands far away, seeking better livelihoods for themselves and their families. This memorial symbolizes the deep emotional connect the descendants of those Indians, who are now living in different countries of the world. During the indenture system, which lasted from 1833 to 1920, more than 1,190,000 Indians were sent to work to different parts of the world. About 453,000 went to Mauritius, 239,000 to British Guiana, 144,000 to Trinidad and 152,000 to Natal, South Africa. This is the first ever Memorial established in India in honour of Indian Indentured Labourers that travelled from India in the 19th & 20th centuries. The Kolkata Memorial recognizes and honours the indomitable spirit and heroism of all Indians who left the shores of their motherland from 1833 to 1920 to embark a long and hazardous journeys to far away
Web-Based Attestation Procedure for Overseas Indian Workers
The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs announced to implement a web-based attestation procedure for the benefit of Indian workers going to the UAE for employment. The Web Based Attestation Procedure will include registration of employers, online filing of the demand, online receipt of documents from Indian Missions, filing of details of employees selected and finally the Emigration Clearance of the Protector of Emigrants (POE). This system will provide access to all data/information related to the recruitment of Indian Emigrant Workers in the country of destination to the Indian Mission, the employer, the Protector General of Emigrants (PGE) and the Protector of Emigrants (POE). Thus, the system will provide a data bank of the employer, the Indian worker, contract validation, control on recruitment and grievance redressal and the resolution of labour disputes.
6th Head of Missions Conference
The 6th Annual Conference of the Head of Missions was held in New Delhi. Heads of Indian Missions of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries as well as Jordan, Yemen, Malaysia, Maldives, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Iraq attended the conference. The Agenda of the Conference was, the new initiatives in the Emigration Policy being framed by the Ministry, review of various welfare measures at the Mission level, strengthening Grievance Redressal Mechanism at the Mission level, follow up on the Joint Working Group meetings’ decisions, pursuant to labour MoUs with five GCC countries etc. The two day Conference was an important institutional initiative to discuss various issues and problems relating to the Overseas Indian Community, especially the expatriate workers and to further develop an institutional framework and operational mechanism to effectively address the concerns of Overseas Indians.
4th Consultation meeting with State Governments
The 4th Consultation Meeting with State Governments on Emigration Management held in New Delhi. The two-day consultation meeting is being organized to discuss various emigration and Diaspora related matters and how best the Ministry can partner with the State Governments to provide required support and guidance in effectively addressing the concerns of Overseas Indians. The aim of this consultation meeting was to take this engagement of the States to the next level in Emigration Management. This meeting is an important initiative of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) for providing a platform for the State Governments to make suggestions and recommendations to the Government of India in the matter of emigration and overseas Indians.
Know India Programme
35 participants from 12 countries (Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, New Zealand, Peru, Suriname, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, UK and Zimbabwe) participated in the 16th Know India Programme from 5th- 26th January 2011. A group of 24 diaspora youth from seven countries attended 17th Know India Programme (KIP) from 28th April to 18th May, 2011. The Programme was conducted by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. The 18th Know India Programme (KIP) of this Ministry held from 21st September, 2011 to 11th October, 2011 with partner State of Rajasthan. 28 Diaspora Youth in the age group of 18-26 years (12 girls and 16 boys) from six countries (Australia, Fiji, South Africa, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago and Malaysia) took part in the progrmme.
The Know India Programme, by the Ministry of Overseas Indian affairs is organized for diaspora youth, in the age group of 18-26 years is conducted by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. The programme is held in partnership with one or two State Governments with a view to promoting awareness on the different facets of life in India and the progress made by the country in various fields e.g. economic, industrial, education, science & technology, communication and information technology and culture.