Coming soon, amendment to Emigration Act

Thursday, 27 March 2008, 12:38 Hrs
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New Delhi: Two years in the making, a proposed amendment to the Emigration Act 1983 - aimed at helping Indian workers in foreign countries - is now in the final stages.

"We have completed all the inter-ministerial consultations. The amendment is now in its final stages," said a senior official in the ministry of overseas Indian affairs.

The amendment, which will tighten the noose on human trafficking, is being carried out in the wake of frequent reports about Indian workers facing problems abroad.

In a recent incident, Indian workers struck work at a US shipyard over alleged non-fulfilment of employment commitments to get a green card. Two recruiting agents were penalised when their registration certificate was suspended.

The official said the draft was ready to go for a final scrutiny to the law ministry. "Once cleared, we hope to get the amendment ready for approval by the cabinet and place it before parliament by June," said the official.

Amendments to the 25-year-old legislation covering the exporting of manpower, especially for blue-collar jobs, have been in the pipeline for some time.

The importance of a legal and clean migration channel has become a priority, with Indians working abroad sending the highest amount of remittances - nearly $27 billion - among other national immigrant groups.

The key feature of the amendments will be to prevent human trafficking through more stringent penalties for recruiting agents who violate rules and giving the power of enforcement to the ministry.

"For the first time, there will be a specific provision for human trafficking," he said.

The amended act's aim is to "transform immigration into a humane, orderly and efficient process", besides discouraging illegal migration practices.

"We have to now wait for the state governments to take action against any recruiting agent for violating rules. Under the new act, we will have our own enforcement wing under the protector general of emigrants," he said.

Consultations between different ministries, including that of overseas Indian affairs, home, external affairs, labour and social justice, took place last year.

"There was not much disagreement between the ministries. In fact, they have asked us to add more clauses to give them powers," he said.

For example, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) asked for Indian missions abroad to have a more "empowered" role in preventing human trafficking.

Besides, recruiting agents had also been asked for their contribution in clarifying some of the loopholes in the law.

"One of the things that recruiting agents were concerned about was for how much time they would be responsible for the welfare and actions of the emigrant," said the official.

The recruiting agent will become responsible for the actions of the emigrant during the entire period of the fixed-term contract. Further, it will also increase the rate that can be charged by recruiting agents from their clients.

The 2002 amendment bill to the Emigration Act 1983 was presented to parliament in November 2002 but then had been referred to the standing committee of labour and welfare in December 2002. The committee brought out a report in December 2003 suggesting changes in the bill.

The ministry of labour had already brought extensive changes through the Emigration Rules 2002. Then in 2004, the government changed and emigration went out of the hands of the labour ministry to the new ministry of overseas Indian affairs.
Source: IANS
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