By Anjali Ojha
New Delhi, Feb 12 (IANS): A parliamentary panel has pulled up the government for delaying a new emigration policy that would keep with the changing times, and expressed displeasure over a bill being put in abeyance for long years.
India's current emigration act was formulated in 1983 and amended in 2009. The Emigration Management Bill, which is to replace the act, was formulated by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs in 2009 and updated in 2010 and 2011. However, it never saw the light of day in Parliament.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, in an earlier report had been tough on the government, questioning the delay in introducing a new emigration bill "that was reflective of the changed international as well as domestic situation".
"The Committee was disheartened to note that the Draft Emigration Bill stated to replace the Emigration Act, 1983, had been put in abeyance since 2011 and the ministry had once again failed to adhere to the deadline for introducing the bill during the monsoon session of Parliament last year," the panel said in its 11th report that was tabled in May 2016.
The External Affairs Ministry in its reply said it is "conscious of the need to modernise the legislative framework prescribed by the Emigration Act, 1983, and the Emigration Rules that governs emigration of Indians for overseas employment".
It also stated that the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, which was merged with the Ministry of External Affairs in January 2016, had also held consultations over the draft Emigration Management Bill, but it was felt that wider consultations were needed.
The government also pointed out the measures like e-migrate platform, 24X7 Helpline "MADAD" for online lodging and redressal of grievances of the emigrants, mandatory Pravasi Bharatiya Bima Yojana, and the Indian Community Welfare Fund in Missions and Posts abroad as some measures.
The panel, however, rapped the government over the delay and said the ministry has "broadly reproduced the same reply as it had furnished in the previous year".
The Parliamentary Committee said it is not convinced with the ministry's arguments of the other measures taken.
"The Committee would reiterate that a new framework for emigration is needed and in the absence of a firm legal backing, these administrative measures are likely to prove insufficient," the report said.
"The Committee, in the strongest possible terms, recommend that the Ministry should adhere to a time-frame to complete the consultation process to evolve a comprehensive emigration management framework and ensure that it comprises a comprehensive legislative framework delineating the rules governing emigration law by replacing the obsolete Emigration Act, 1983," it said.
Before the merger of the Ministry of Overseas Affairs with the External Affairs Ministry, the then Minister of State for Overseas Affairs V.K. Singh in a written reply in Lok Sabha had said salient features of the proposed bill include transforming emigration into a simple, transparent, efficient, and humane economic process with emphasis on management of migration that includes facilitating legal migration and preventing illegal migration.
It will also enable ethical recruitment practices, enhance the protection and welfare of emigrants and matters connected therewith, the minister had said.
In another reply to the Lok Sabha in July 2014, V.K. Singh had said the bill was at the stage of inter-ministerial consultations and no time limit could be given for it.
The bill proposes constitution of an Emigration Management Authority, which will manage and regulate recruitment and enrolment agencies, accreditation of employees, registration of emigrants and obtaining intimation from students going abroad.