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Indian Emigrants in War Zones

Context:

In its inaugural acknowledgment of such incidents, the government has officially recognized that individuals of Indian origin have been enlisted by the Russian Army and strategically positioned within the borders of Ukraine, which are currently under Russian control. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has confirmed that a limited number of Indian nationals have enlisted for auxiliary roles such as military support jobs, serving as helpers and loaders—a practice actively discouraged by the government.

Relevance:

GS2- Indian Diaspora

Mains Question:

Recently, some individuals of Indian origin have been enlisted by the Russian Army and strategically positioned within the borders of Ukraine, which are currently under Russian control. In this context, examine if India has sufficient protocols in place to protect emigrants from conflicts. What more needs to be done to cater to the diverse needs of Indian emigrants. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

Participation of Indians as Employees in Conflict Zones:

  • There has been compelling evidence pointing to the participation of numerous Indians in the conflict via certain reports.
  • The reports included the tragic demise of an individual from Surat who fell victim to a Ukrainian drone-operated missile.
  • An early acknowledgment of the issue and increased awareness campaigns against those misleading Indians might have served as deterrents, dissuading others from joining and exposing themselves to harm.
  • The government is now urged to investigate the networks of unscrupulous recruiters who charge exorbitant fees from Indians seeking employment abroad, often failing to fully disclose the nature of the work involved.
  • The stark reality is that even after becoming aware of their menial roles in a war zone, these individuals find themselves with limited options.
  • Having depleted their family’s savings or incurred loans to finance their ventures, these men are compelled to stay on to recoup their investments, as returning without earning back some of the expended resources becomes a challenging prospect.

Current Legislations on Emigration:

  • In 2022, the Lok Sabha disclosed that emigration clearances were granted to 3,73,434 Indians, with Punjab accounting for 10,654 of these clearances.
  • The regulatory framework overseeing emigration is the Emigration Act of 1983, which governs the migration of skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled workers, as well as certain professionals like nurses, for employment in 18 specified countries.
  • The current mechanism for labour recruitment operates under the provisions of the Emigration Act, 1983.
  • This legislation primarily addresses labour migration to foreign countries, particularly in West Asia and Gulf Countries, and stipulates that recruiting agencies and middlemen must be certified by the government.
  • It also provides detailed guidelines regarding recruitment charges and outlines minimum service conditions to safeguard the rights of individuals seeking employment abroad.
  • In contrast, the proposed Emigration Bill of 2021 is designed to replace and enhance the existing Emigration Act, 1983.
  • Under this bill, emigrants are defined as Indian citizens departing from or seeking employment outside India.
  • A new emigration policy division is established under the Ministry of External Affairs, which includes help desks and welfare committees for migrant workers.
  • The draft Bill introduces two authorities: the Bureau of Emigration Policy and Planning (BEPP) and the Bureau of Emigration Administration (BEA).
  • The BEPP is tasked with formulating policies related to the welfare of emigrants and negotiating labor and social security agreements with destination countries.
  • It envisions the appointment of a joint secretary level officer as the chief of emigration policy and planning.
  • On the other hand, the BEA focuses on maintaining a database of Indian emigrants, implementing welfare measures and programs, and establishing nodal committees in states and union territories.
  • Key features of the bill include the accreditation of employers, a digitized record of Indian emigrants (including blacklisted individuals), and the registration of human resources agencies engaged in recruitment.
  • The bill imposes penalties for offenses related to emigration, with imprisonment ranging from three to seven years or fines ranging from three to five lakh rupees, or both.
  • Additionally, it prohibits the operation of human resource agencies unless registered as per the specified legal frameworks, such as the Companies Act, 2013, or the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008.
  • Appeals against decisions of the competent authority regarding the registration of these agencies will be adjudicated by the central government.

However, the bill has not been passed yet.

Way Forward:

  • The government should reassess its protocols concerning countries experiencing conflicts, with a particular focus on updating the list of 18 “Emigration Check Required” countries.
  • This revision is necessary to ensure a more thorough scrutiny of contracts for Indians embarking on overseas assignments in conflict zones, offering them improved guidance and enhanced protection.
  • Recognizing similar challenges faced by Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, there is an opportunity to foster regional cooperation to combat networks promoting unsafe employment opportunities.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs’ appeals for individuals to “stay away from conflict” appear to be insufficient. It is disconcerting that the government has approved recruitment initiatives for other conflict zones, such as Israel, where Indian construction and eldercare workers are being enlisted to replace Palestinians who have been denied entry into the country since October 7.
  • Addressing the broader issue, the numerous instances of Indians venturing into perilous international zones or undertaking arduous journeys as illegal immigrants underscore the profound economic distress and job shortages prevalent in India.

Conclusion:

While acknowledging that there are no quick fixes to entrenched economic challenges, the government must demonstrate greater empathy for the predicaments faced by many. This involves implementing more comprehensive protocols for emigrants and establishing robust support structures for those in precarious situations.


April 2024
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