Congress member Shashi Tharoor (File Photo)
Congress member Shashi Tharoor (File Photo)

Issue advisory for not withholding passports of Indian workers by employers in GCC countries: Parliamentary Committee tells MEA

ANI | Updated: Jan 02, 2019 23:49 IST

New Delhi [India], Jan 2 (ANI): Concerned over the safety and security of the Indian migrant workers, the Parliament's Standing Committee on External Affairs has asked the government to take adequate steps to prevent their exploitation and harassment.
In a report tabled in the Parliament on Wednesday, the Committee headed by Congress member Shashi Tharoor urged the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to issue an advisory to GCC countries for not withholding the passports of Indian workers by the employers and using it as a method of exploitation of migrant workers.
The Committee claimed that the Foreign Secretary had submitted to it that MEA has blacklisted a number of foreign employers for taking away the passport where they don't have the Iqama system.
The Committee also said that not only foreign but even Indian airlines charged exorbitant air fares from Indian migrant workers when they visited India on special occasions. It acknowledged the efforts made by MEA to take up the issue of high air fares for Indian migrant workers who return on special occasions.
"Low paid Indian workers working in GCC countries normally visit their home once or twice particularly to attend marriages or some seasonal festivals. It is disheartening to note that not only the foreign airlines but also our own airlines charge very exorbitant air fares adding to the financial burden on the already low paid workers," the Committee said.
While referring to the oft-erupting crisis and safety challenges for Indian workers in Gulf countries, the Committee recommended that the Government should chalk out an emergency plan that clearly delineates the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and also forges an institutionalised mechanism with host countries to evacuate workers. Furthermore, the migrant workers should also be provided with facilities, so that emergency situations can be dealt with during their pre-departure training phase.
"The Gulf region has been facing a frequent crisis in recent past. The tragic death of 39 Indian workers in Iraq in early 2018 is a sad testimony to the security and safety challenges faced by them... Non-payment of salaries, seizure of passports, lack of finances, inadequate communication etc further augment the security challenges of these migrant workers...As a humanitarian issue, the Committee recommend that the Government should take up this issue with utmost seriousness and devise an effective mechanism with the host governments to ensure speedy repatriation of the mortal remains of the Indian migrants. A single window system can be set up in the Indian Missions/Posts abroad to ease the formalities and reduce the time taken for repatriation," the Committee said in its report.
The Committee also observed that the size, spread and depth of migration pathways from India has been witnessing significant changes during the last three decades and the existing institutional arrangements for the protection, safety and welfare of Indian emigrants are based on inadequate data infrastructure. Moreover, in the absence of any articulate migration policy, the country has not been able to tap in the full potential offered by mobility of Indians in the international labour market and the efforts geared in this direction appear fragmentary and myopic.
"The Committee, therefore, would strongly urge that the Government should undertake coordinated modes of engagement with all concerned stakeholders and enhance India's migration governance by framing a coherent migration policy. Furthermore, the Government should put in place a strong mechanism for inter-ministerial coordination and cooperation with State Governments to improve the governance on migration, address the challenges and effectively implement the ongoing programmes for the protection and welfare of Indian migrants," it said.
The Committee strongly emphasised that all migrant workers are entitled to respect and protection of their human rights and dignity of labour and recommended that the MEA should ensure that concerted efforts are made to reduce their vulnerabilities, curb exploitation and harassment, particularly on the Kafala system and issues related to Iqama .
On regulating recruitment agents, the Committee observed that while there were a large number of complaints against the Registered Recruiting Agents indulging in malpractices in recruitment, stringent actions like the cancellation of Registration Certificate was taken against only a few. Maximum number of complaints were either dropped or settled.
"The Committee, therefore, desire that PGE under provisions of law should take appropriate and strong action including prosecution of fraudulent Registered Recruiting agents, if complaints are received against them. Because if they are not punished stringently, there is a greater likelihood that such agents would continue to commit similar frauds," the report said.
The Committee also added that steps have been taken to bring the state governments on board for taking prompt action in such matters of fraud and human trafficking, but without the desired results.
It also suggested establishing Migrant Help Desks at all major airports and handover a comprehensive pre-departure manual to migrants before departure to destination countries. The Committee suggested that the Government should increase the number of India International Skill Centres particularly in Southern States (which are major labour exporting States) and also expand the sectors for training after a rigorous job-mapping study.
"MEA is also urged to organize more pre-departure training programmes in view of the massive outward migration for overseas employment from India. The skilling of workers should also be carried out in the destination country and therefore the Government is strongly advised to forge cooperation with destination countries for further skilling. The Committee also desire to be apprised about the outcomes of the Global Skill Gap Study," it said.
The Committee also recommended that the Government should seriously raise the issue of basic rights of Indian migrant workers during all bilateral and regional interactions with the GCC countries. The migrant workers should be provided with a manual of their rights and the point of contact with Missions/Posts for redressal in case of any violations. The Ministry should also make it a mandatory requirement that all work contracts need to be attested by Indian Mission/Post in the respective destination country.
It also urged the Government to revise the minimum referral wages to regulate the wages of Indian migrant workers employed in different countries falling under the Emigration Check Regulation (ECR) category. The minimum wage rates were last fixed in 2014 on the-then prevailing wage rate.
The Committee observed that repatriation of human remains is a painstaking and expensive process. As per the Ministry, local procedures for transportation of mortal remains vary from country to country. The time taken for completion of local formalities is usually two to four weeks and the wait is even longer for unnatural deaths due to the procedure of investigation. Moreover, registration of death at the concerned Indian Mission/Post is essential for which too much documentation is needed.
"As a humanitarian issue, the Committee recommend that the Government should take up this issue with utmost seriousness and devise an effective mechanism with the host governments to ensure speedy repatriation of the mortal remains of the Indian migrants. A single window system can be set up in the Indian Missions/Posts abroad to ease the formalities and reduce the time taken for repatriation."
The Committee also expressed grave concern over the prolonged delay in the introduction of draft Emigration Bill. "The justifications and assurances offered by the Ministry for putting the bill in abeyance are untenable and unconvincing. If the country of origin is negligent about its duties towards its migrant workers, how can we have expectations from the destination countries? The Committee, therefore, strongly recommend that the Government should take serious cognizance of this matter and accord it the highest level priority," the report said. (ANI)