CONTRIBUTION OF INDIAN DIASPORA
RSTV PERSPECTIVE: CONTRIBUTION OF INDIAN DIASPORA
- Diasporas are symbol of a nation’s pride and represent their country internationally.
- The diaspora’s ability to spread Indian soft power, lobby for India’s national interests, and contribute economically to India’s rise is now well-recognized.
- One of the greatest economic contributions of Indian diaspora has been in terms of remittances.
- To mark the contribution of Overseas Indian community in the development of India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is celebrated on 9th January every year.
- India has the largest diaspora population in the world with 18 million people from the country living outside their homeland in 2020, according to 'International Migration 2020 Highlights' report by the UN, which says UAE, the US and Saudi Arabia host the largest number of migrants from India.
- India's large diaspora is distributed across the United Arab Emirates (3.5 million), the United States of America (2.7 million) and Saudi Arabia (2.5 million).
- Other countries hosting large numbers of Indian migrants included Australia, Canada, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar and the United Kingdom.
- China and Russia also have spatially diffused diasporas.
- According to a World Bank Report, India received approximately 87 billion dollars in remittances in 2021 with USA being the biggest source, accounting for over 20% of these funds.
What is diaspora?
- The term “diaspora” originates from the Greek term diaspeirein, which translates as “dispersion.”
- The phrase expanded over time and now broadly refers to anyone who is a citizen of a certain country and shares a common ancestry or culture but resides beyond their homeland for a variety of reasons.
- In India, the term “diaspora” refers to Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs), and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI), the latter of which was amalgamated into a single category – OCI — in 2015.
- During British administration, vast numbers of Indians migrated as indentured labourers to former colonies such as Fiji, Kenya, and Malaysia.
- It continued post-independence, with Indians of various social classes migrating to countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, and Gulf countries.
- From Google, Microsoft, Twitter CEOs to Nobel laureate scientist Har Gobind Khorana, the list of Indians abroad and their contribution to the world goes endlessly.
India’s policy towards the diaspora:
- India was initially concerned that advocating for overseas Indians might insult host countries, which should have full responsibility for their welfare and security.
- According to J L Nehru, the diaspora could not expect India to fight for their rights, and hence India’s foreign policy in the 1950s was built as a model of non-intervention.
- However, Rajiv Gandhi was the first Prime Minister to alter the diaspora policy in the 1980s, by urging Indians living abroad, regardless of their nationality, to join in nation-building efforts, similar to the overseas Chinese communities.
- After 2000, under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, a slew of positive measures were introduced, including a separate Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) Card, Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, Overseas Citizen of India Card, NRI funds, and voting rights for Indian citizens living abroad.
- Present regime has carried forward the work in positive direction. Additionally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched the e-migrate system in 2015, which requires all foreign employers to register with the database.
Major sections of Indian Diaspora:
- Around 8.5 million Indians live and work in the Gulf countries, one of the largest concentrations of migrants in the world.
- 4 million Indian immigrants resident in the United States as of 2015. This makes the foreign-born from India the second-largest immigrant group in the US after Mexicans.
- According to a Ministry of External Affairs report, there were 30,995,729 NRIs and PIOs residing outside India as of December 2018.
Significance of Indian diaspora:
- Freedom struggle: Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle for ending institutionalized discrimination against Indians in South Africa became an inspiring legend for enduring sentimentalism about the diaspora in modern India. As the independence movement gathered momentum at home, it began to influence many Indian communities abroad.
- Cultural extension: Sikhs are one of the largest migrants from India to the UK, Canada and many other countries.
- Indian diaspora’s contribution to the world: Indian diaspora in the world can be divided into two major categories (apart from others who are in myriad occupations and almost in every country in the world):
- Technological graduates: They are the engineering and management graduates, who are in high-value jobs majorly located in, but not limited to, the western countries like US and Europe.
- Manual Labour: These comprise the comparatively lower-skilled population, which has been hired for manual labour, majorly in the Arab or West Asian countries.
- Remittances: India received approximately 87 billion dollars in remittances in 2021 with USA being the biggest source, accounting for over 20% of these funds. In fact, Indians contribute 13% of global remittances. The remittance sent by Indians back to India amount to approximately 3.2% of the Indian GDP.
- Agents of change: facilitating and enhancing investment, accelerating industrial development, and boosting international trade and tourism.
- Technological development and entrepreneurship: Bengaluru, Gurugram and Hyderabad as thriving IT hubs that not only house MNCs but also multiple Indian start-ups.
- Enhancing India’s global say: Apart from political pressures and ministerial and diplomatic level lobbying, India can leverage its diaspora to influence various states
- Diaspora diplomacy: examples are lobbying for the US-India Civilian Nuclear Agreement Bill in 2008 and their remittance inflow. The recent engagement of PM Modi in Houston is a continuation of his extraordinary political investment in engaging the Indian diaspora.
- Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas: 9th January was chosen as the day to celebrate PBD since it was on this day in 1915 that Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest Pravasi, returned to India from South Africa, led India’s freedom struggle and changed the lives of Indians forever. PBD Conventions are held once every two years. PBD 2021: The 16th PBD Convention was held virtually in New Delhi. The theme was "Contributing to Aatmanirbhar Bharat". On the occasion, several events such as PBD Convention, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award and Bharat ko Janiye Quiz are organised. Regional conventions are also held.
- Vande Bharat Mission, in which more than 45 lakh Indians were rescued during Corona times.
- Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support (SWADES), an initiative for returning immigrants from the Gulf and other areas.
- Global Pravasi Rishta Portal for better connectivity and communication with the Pravasi Bharatiyas.
- Education: NRI seats are reserved in all the medical, engineering and other professional colleges. Other youth-centric outreach programs include Bharat Ko Jano online quizzes.
- Voting rights: The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill 2017 extends the facility of ‘proxy voting’ to overseas Indians, on the lines of service voters.
- Know India Program: It is a flagship initiative for Diaspora engagement which familiarizes Indian-origin youth (18-30 years) with their Indian roots and contemporary India has been refashioned.
- Minimum Referral Wages 2014
- Easing the passport facility: Head Post Offices launched as passport centers enabling thousands more to apply for a passport.
- Merger of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs with the Ministry of External Affairs
- India also allowed visitors from 43 countries, including the United States, Australia and Fiji, to receive visas upon arrival, replacing the previous process, which took weeks
- The Overseas India Facilitation Centre was set-up by the Government of India in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), to facilitate economic engagement of overseas Indians with India.
- The government evacuated Indian Diaspora in Yemen in 2015 through the Operation Rahat and from South Sudan through Operation Sankat Mochan.
- The government is emphasising more on youth and has started a scheme "Know your country".
- "Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana" targeting Indian youth seeking overseas employment.
- The Indian government is active on the social media and the government provides quick response and solves the problems of Indian Diaspora through the social media.
- Promotion of Cultural Ties with Diaspora: an aim to showcase Indian culture and new initiatives & developments of modern India.
- Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children: launched in 2006-2007 for the children of overseas Indians (PIOs/NRIs) with the objective to make higher education in Indian Universities/Institutions accessible to diaspora children and promote India as a centre for higher studies.
- Pravasi Teerth Darshan Yojana: In the year 2018-19, the Ministry has started a special Know India Programme in association with Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) for the PIOs in the age group of 45-60 years
- India Centre For Migration: is a ‘not for profit’ society under the Societies Registration Act 1860, in July, 2008. The Centre serves as a research think-tank to the Ministry of External Affairs on all matters relating to ‘International Migration’.
- Indian Community Welfare Fund: set up in 2009, is aimed at assisting Overseas Indian nationals in times of distress and emergency in the ‘most deserving cases’ on a ‘means tested basis’.
- Pravasi Bharatiya Bima Yojana: is a mandatory insurance scheme for all Emigration Check Required (ECR) category workers going to ECR countries.
- Pre-departure Orientation Training: Ministry has made robust efforts towards ensuing a safe, orderly, legal and humane migration process. This includes a broad-based institutional framework for welfare and protection of migrant workers and awareness generation
- Vaibhav Summit: Vaishwik Bhartiya Vaigyanik or Vaibhav summit is an event to bring together resident and overseas scientists of India at a common platform to solve the current problems facing India.
- The Ministry of External Affairs is running a scheme since October 2008 known as "Tracing the Roots" to facilitate PIOs in tracing their roots in India.
Challenges faced by Diaspora:
- Rising incidence of hate speech and crimes against Indians by the locals due to racism, communalism emboldened by coming of nationalist and ultra-nationalist governments to power in many countries.
- Increasing anti-globalization (Fear of losing jobs and educational opportunities to outsiders) has resulted in stricter visa rules in many countries including the USA, Australia, etc.
- Sectarian crisis, increasing terrorist activities and war in the Middle East countries leave diaspora vulnerable to attacks.
- Support of the diaspora is neither automatic nor continuous, and their interests need not be India’s priorities.
- Another challenge is that remittances may not always be used for beneficial purposes. For instance, India faced problems due to foreign funding for extremist movements like the Khalistan movement.
- While addressing the diaspora, India should be careful about not crossing some red lines. China, for example, is getting into trouble in many countries for turning its relationship with the diaspora into an active intervention in the domestic politics of the host nation.
- Diaspora as a threat: India has had problems with negative campaigning and foreign funding, coming from abroad, for separatist movements like the Khalistan movement.
- West Asia: job cuts, Shia - Sunni conflicts and radical Islamism, fierce competition from skilled labour from Philippines and cheap labour from Nepal, Regressive and medieval policies like employer seizing the travel documents upon arrival known as Kafala labour system is exploitative.
- US, Canada & UK: Discriminative practices, stricter H1B visa norms in US, Revision of visa norms in UK post Brexit
- Address the problems of overseas blue-collar workers
- Negotiating a Standard Labour Export Agreements with the host countries
- Monitoring and supervision of overseas workers by Missions
- Compulsory insurance schemes covering the risks faced by overseas workers
- Focus on promoting tourism among 2nd generation PIOs, Welfare of Indian Women married to NRIs/PIOs
- Economic Development
- Diasporic professionals are working in senior positions in manufacturing industry can be helpful in promoting India as an important destination for out-sourcing.
- Government should also consider setting up Special Economic Zones, exclusively for projects to be set up by NRIs/PIOs.
- Government should consider issuing special infrastructure bonds for attracting NRI/PIO investments on the lines of the Israel Bonds.
- Communicating with the diaspora: It is important to make the diaspora feel respected if we expect them to contribute to the development of the country. Therefore, it is critical to have two-way communication to understand their problems and design the policies accordingly.
- Awareness generation: Many members have pointed to the lack of knowledge of specific schemes implemented for their welfare. There is a need for better information flow and making the diaspora aware of the schemes benefitting them, by making proper use of technology.
- To ensure that Diaspora members feel welcomed on their arrival in India and also recall warmly their visits, a friendlier reception at their point of entry; easier procedures for immigration and customs clearances that are marked by courteous service are essential.
- A Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Indian Diaspora could be constituted. It should have in it, members with an interest in Diaspora affairs.
- India’s foreign policy aims to translate partnerships to benefits for key projects like Swachh Bharat, Clean Ganga, Make In India, Digital India, and Skill India, the diaspora has plenty of scope to contribute.