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India’s Evolving Migration Governance - Progress and Prospects

Updated: 7 days ago

As a country with approximately 35 million international migrants spread across the globe, India has the distinct advantage of having the largest diaspora, resulting in a diasporic dividend abroad and a rich demographic dividend domestically with a skilled workforce. India has emerged as a global pool for fulfilling labour market demand globally, becoming the largest receiver of remittances.



Indian Diaspora

Illustration by The Geostrata


Such progress has been achieved through significant initiatives and policies implemented by the Indian government over the years. Hence, it is imperative to assess India’s story of migration governance and diaspora engagement and suggest ideas for further improvement. 


PRE-DEPARTURE ORIENTATION TRAINING AND ETHICAL RECRUITMENT


India’s commitment to ensuring safe and ethical labour recruitment is depicted through its various initiatives. For instance, Pre-Departure Orientation Training (PDOT) programmes are serving to ensure a safe, orderly, legal and humane migration with the motto- “Surakshit Jaaye, Prashikhsit Jaaye, Vishwas Ke Saath Jaaye”, implying to go safely, go trained and go confidently. 


PDOT programs aim to enhance the soft skills of prospective Emigration Check Required (ECR) category migrants by imparting knowledge to them in terms of culture, language, tradition, and local rules and regulations of the destination country.

The initiative educates migrant workers on safe and legal migration, as well as many governmental welfare and protective measures. Some of these include the Indian Community Welfare Fund, Pravasi Bharatiya Bima Yojana, eMigrate, MADAD portal, Pravasi Bharatiya Sahayata Kendras, and round-the-clock assistance services provided by Indian diplomatic missions abroad. 


Under the mandate of Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PKVY), PDOT is being imparted to Indian migrant workers by both the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), inculcating soft and hard skills.


There are 90 PDOT centers spread across several regions of the country. Since January 2018, as of May 31, 2023, a total of 129,062 candidates have undergone training through the PDOT programs. This data illustrates the significant reach and implementation of these initiatives in capacity-building of prospective migrants.


STRENGTHENING MIGRATION DATA MANAGEMENT


To improve data management on migration, MEA undertook the project “Strengthening Data-informed and Migrant-centred Migration Management Frameworks in India” from 2021 to 2023 with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in India and IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) based in Berlin.


Continuing the momentum, in December 2023, Project PRAYAS (Promoting Regular and Assisted Migration for Youth and Skilled Professionals) was launched by IOM and the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) to develop a roadmap for improved coordination between central and state governments, encouraging the sharing of best practices among states and enhancing engagement with the MEA on matters related to the international migration cycle.


It aligns with the Sustainable Development Goal 10.7 and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) objectives.

Moreover, India- European Union (EU) led significant initiatives like High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Mobility (HLDMM) and Common Agenda for Migration and Mobility (CAMM) have helped generate data and awareness relating to regular and irregular migration pathways.


It recommended to categorize and disaggregate data on migrants by gender, age, origin and destination regions while also looking into aligning the labour market needs of destination countries with the Indian migrant workers’ available skillset. 


On the e-Migrate portal, the Protector General of Emigrants (PGE) and the POEs, Indian Missions, employers, registered recruitment agents (RAs), emigrants, insurance agencies, and the passport system of MEA are linked electronically on a common platform to provide a transparent and accessible service.

In May 2024, MoU has been signed between the MEA, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, and CSC eGovernance Services India Limited to integrate the eMigrate portal with Common Services Centers (CSCs) across India. This initiative seeks to enhance accessibility and efficiency in emigration services, particularly for blue-collar workers bound for ECR countries.


The collaboration will facilitate citizen registration, document processing, medical service bookings, and awareness creation through CSCs, leveraging their extensive network of over 5.50 lakh centres. This partnership is designed to promote safe and legal migration, prevent exploitation of Indian citizens seeking overseas employment, and extend digital service delivery to rural and remote areas, aligning with India’s broader digital governance and financial inclusion objectives.


BILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL ENGAGEMENT


India has demonstrated a heightened focus on enhancing labour mobility and migration governance through bilateral agreements. From January 2015 to March 2023, India signed 17 Labor Mobility Agreements (LMAs), Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreements (MMPAs), and Documents of Intent (DoIs) with destination countries. This signifies a substantial increase compared to the previous period from 1985 to 2014, during which only five such agreements were concluded.


This proactive approach underscores India’s commitment to establishing robust frameworks that facilitate safe, orderly, and regular migration pathways, while addressing the evolving dynamics of global labour markets and workforce mobility.


India is also part of the regional and global migration governance regimes. India has been regularly participating in the Colombo Process, Abu Dhabi Dialogue and Global Forum on Migration and Development, which shows India’s active engagement toward multilateral cooperation relating to migration governance.


Recently, in May 2024, India participated in the International Dialogue on Migration on “Facilitating Regular Pathways to a Better Future: Harnessing the Power of Migration” theme organized by IOM.

Earlier, in May 2022, the Indian delegation participated in the first International Migration Review Forum (IMRF) held in New York to review the implementation of the 23 objectives of the GCM, the first inter-governmental agreement on migration under the auspices of the United Nations. It shows India’s increasing inclination and sustained efforts toward migration management. 


DIASPORIC ENGAGEMENT - LEVERAGING BONDING


India’s strong diaspora engagement is visible through the celebration of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), which is held every two years, and so far, 17 PBDs have taken place since 2003. PBD provides a platform for the vast Indian overseas diaspora to share their knowledge, expertise and skills.


At the event, the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award (PBSA) is bestowed to eminent Indian diaspora members or institutions whose work is of notable importance to India. Additionally, schemes like Pravasi Teerth Darshan Yojana (PTDY), which provides an opportunity for the elderly generation of Persons of Indian Origins (PIOs) belonging to seven Girmitiya countries to visit India’s religious places, and the Know India Programme for Young Overseas Indians are helping India connect and leverage its diasporic bonding.


Moreover, India’s active presence at the Global Diaspora Summit in Ireland in April 2022 showcased India’s proactive engagement toward diaspora. India supported the Dublin Declaration, which served as a plan of action for operationalizing and institutionalizing diaspora capitals. 


ASPIRATIONAL VISION TOWARD A BETTER FUTURE


Despite many positive initiatives, the scope for improvements in policies and initiatives remains in India’s migration governance. Project outcomes and viable recommendations emanating from joint projects with IOM need to be adopted in India’s migration governance. India needs a coherent migration policy that includes gender sensitivity and an updated Emigration Act to replace the Emigration Act of 1983 for adapting to the evolving dynamics of international migration.


Such a modernized legal framework would better align India’s migration governance with global best practices, safeguarding the labour and human rights of all migrant workers.

Moreover, India’s assumption of the chairmanship of the Colombo Process, a regional consultative forum on migration comprising 12 Asian member states, presents a significant opportunity for the country to steer the discourse on migration governance. As the chair for the 2024-26 period, India can leverage this platform to exchange best practices, shape regional policies, and implement effective strategies for safe, orderly, and regular migration. 


 

BY ABHISHEK YADAV

Abhishek Yadav is a Research Analyst at the Manohar Parrikar Institute

for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA), New Delhi.

(Views are personal)

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