Monday, December 31, 2012

Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs for Year 2012

2012 was an eventful year for Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. Several initiatives were taken for protection and betterment of Indian workers and Overseas Indian professionals. Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana(MGPSY) was launched for benefits of Indian workers. Various Social Security Agreements were also signed to protect the interests of Indian professionals. An equally large number of initiatives were taken for constructive and mutually beneficial engagement with the Indian Diaspora. Some highlights are given below.

Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana
The Ministry has launched Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana(MGPSY) in May 2012. The objective of MGPSY is to encourage and enable overseas Indian workers having Emigration Check Required (ECR) passports going to ECR countries, to (a) save for their return and resettlement and (b) save for their pension. They are also provided Life Insurance cover against natural death, during the period of coverage, without any additional payment by them. The Ministry also contributes, for a period of five years, or till the return of workers to India, whichever is earlier, as under:
· Rs.1,000 per subscriber who saves between Rs.1,000 and Rs.12,000 per annum in their National Pension Scheme(NPS) -Lite account;
· An additional contribution of Rs.1,000 per annum for overseas Indian women workers who save between Rs.1,000 and Rs.12,000 per annum in National Pension Scheme(NPS)-Lite account;
· An annual contribution of Rs. 900 per annum per subscriber who saves at least Rs. 4000 per annum towards Return and Resettlement fund;
· Rs.100/- for life insurance cover of Rs.30,000 per year against natural death and Rs.75,000 against death by accident through the Janshree Bima Yojana of Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC).
There is an integrated enrolment process for the subscribers who will be issued a unique MGPSY account number upon enrolment. On their return to India, the subscriber can withdraw the Return and Resettlement savings as a lump sum. However, the subscriber would be able to continue savings for their old age in the NPS-Lite in line with the Swavalamban Sheme. Alternatively subscriber can withdraw pension corpus as per the guidelines prescribed by the Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority (PFRDA).

Social Security Agreements

The Ministry has concluded the Social Security Agreements (SSA) with Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Hungary, Denmark, Czech Republic, South Korea, Norway, Finland, Canada and Japan. The Social Security Agreements were signed with Finland in July 2012 and with Sweden in November 2012 to enhance cooperation on social security. There are about 18,000 Overseas Indians in Sweden and 5000 Overseas Indians in Finland are working as professional and self-employed. The bilateral Social Security Agreements protect the interests of Indian professionals.

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. During the visit of Labour Minister of Saudi Arabia, it was agreed the both countries will initiate a dialogue process for an MoU between the two countries for welfare of workers.

10th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) convention

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 10th edition of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention was held in Jaipur from 7th to 9th January, 2012.  The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh inaugurated the event and the President Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil delivered the valedictory address and conferred the Pravasi Bhartiya Samman Awards to 15 eminent NRIs.  “The Global Indian: Inclusive Growth” was the theme of the event and the focus was on India’s Social Development and the Overseas Indian community. Prime Minister announced a new Pension and Life Insurance Fund for overseas Indian workers to encourage, enable and assist overseas workers to voluntarily save for their return and resettlement and old age. A Protector of Emigrants (POE) office was also inaugurated in Jaipur during the event to facilitate overseas Indians and emigrating workers of this region. The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Ms. Kamla Persad Bissessar was the Chief Guest of the event.  Over 1900 delegates from about 60 countries were participated this year’s PBD.

5th Consultation Meeting with State Governments

The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) organized two-day 5th Consultation Meeting with the State Governments to discuss issues relating to emigration and how best the Ministry could partner with state governments to provide necessary support in effectively addressing the concerns of Overseas Indians. The Meeting was attended by senior officials of MOIA, MEA and senior Government functionaries from major labour sending States such as Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have been invited to attend the Meeting. In the Meeting the States were appraised that the Government has revised the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) scheme for the larger benefits of the Overseas Indians.  The State representatives were informed that in the last three years, Rs.21.70 crore has been spent from the ICWF to help 19,179 Indians. The States were requested to create awareness among the prospective emigrants for implementation of Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Surksha Yojana which provides the overseas Indian workers a pension, a sum for return and resettlement and life insurance during the period of five years.

7th Heads of Indian Missions conference

The  7th Heads of Indian Missions (HoMs) conference held in New Delhi to protection and welfare of Overseas Indian workers. It was announced that the MOIA is considering to open a Protector of Emigrants Office (PoE) in Bengaluru. However, the Rae Bareli PoE office is also ready and Guwahati PoE office would be functional soon. In the meeting, HoMs  were urged to cooperate on the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana which provides the overseas Indian workers a pension, a sum for return and resettlement and life insurance during the period of five years. The conference was attended by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries as well as Jordan, Yemen, Malaysia, the Maldives Angola, Thailand, Nigeria, Iraq and Libya. There are approximately 7.5 million semi-skilled and unskilled overseas Indian workers in the GCC countries and Malaysia on temporary employment/ contract visas, predominantly in the construction, healthcare and household services sectors.

Revised Indian Community Welfare Fund

The Ministry revised the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) scheme for the larger benefits of the Overseas Indians which includes:

Assistance towards boarding expenses per head by HOMs is enhanced from 15 to 30 days.

• Payment of penalties in respect of Indian nationals for illegal stay in the host country where prima facie the worker is not at fault;

• Payment of small fines/penalties for the release of Indian nationals in jail/detention centre;

• Providing support to local Overseas Indian Associations to establish Overseas Indian Community Centres in countries that have populations of Overseas Indians exceeding 1,00,000; and

• Providing support to start and run Overseas Indian Community-based student welfare centres in Countries that have more than 20,000 Indian students’ presence.

• Providing support to start and run Overseas Indian Community-based student welfare centres in Countries that have more than 20,000 Indian students’ presence.

Know India Programme

36 participants from 11 countries including Fiji, South Africa, Suriname, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Israel, Slovak Republic, Trinidad & Tobago, Mauritius, Iran and New Zealand participated in 21st Know India Programme (KIP). During the programme, the KIP participants visited various important and historical places in Delhi. They also met dignitaries including Lt. Governor of Delhi and the Chief Election Commissioner. Tamil Nadu was the partner state of this KIP. The participants visited Chennai, Kanchipuram, Mahabalipuram, Puducherry, Kumbakonam, Tanjore, Chettinad, Madurai and other important places including village areas in the state.

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.

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