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Keynote address by Gen. (Dr) V K Singh (Retd.), Minister of State for External Affairs at the First MEA-State Outreach Event organised by MEA and the Government of Telangana at Hyderabad (May 13, 2017)

May 13, 2017

Hon'ble Minister of ITE&C, Industries & Commerce, MA&UD, Mines & Geology, Public Enterprises and NRI Affairs, Shri K.T.Rama Rao
Hon’ble Home and Labour Minister, Shri Naini Narasimha Reddy
Chief Secretary Shri S.P Singh,
Secretary (OIA&CPV) Dr. Dnyaneshwar Mulay
Senior officials of the State Government, and other dignitaries


I am very pleased to be in Hyderabad today for the inaugural event in the "Videsh Sampark” series. The government of India is very keen to work closely with the State Governments, in a true spirit of cooperative federalism. Led by our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji, we are engaging regularly and working closely with State Governments, and even organizing Ministry’s events in various State capitals.

As a part of this effort Ministry started a series of outreach meetings with the States called "Videsh Sampark” - the first such program is being held in partnership with the Govt of Telangana, one of the youngest States in India. The purpose is to connect more effectively with the State Government, inform them about our Ministry’s programmes and schemes for overseas Indians, our passport and consular initiatives, and seek cooperation and assistance of State Government in addressing issues which are common to both sides.

One important area where we can strengthen partnership with the States – is our engagement with the overseas Indian community. The overseas Indian community has a global footprint. Standing at nearly 3.13 crores globally, there are 1.34 crore Non-resident Indians and nearly 1.78 crore Persons of Indian-origin. They are a critical asset for both the government of India and for state governments. They sent to India remittances of US$62.7 billion in 2016, topping global remittances.

Indian professionals and skilled workers are doing extremely well in USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore and other developed countries. With the Indian economy doing extremely well, they are exploring opportunities in India for business, trade and investment.

Telangana is among the States which have one of the largest overseas Indian communities living outside – which includes highly skilled and professional persons; migrant workers in the Gulf and South East Asia; women domestic workers; Indian students, and fourth to fifth generation Indians living in Mauritius and other countries.

The government has given high priority to engagement with the overseas Indians. We are seeking sustained and issue-based dialogue with them, both in India and outside. With this objective we revamped the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention – which will now be held once in two years. In the intervening year, the Prasvasi Bharatiya Divas conferences will be held in New Delhi on specific issues of interest to the Diaspora. In January this year we held the 14th PBD Convention attended by 7200 persons, including overseas Indians from 72 countries.

We organize the Know India Programme for connecting with youth of Indian origin. This is a 25 day visit to India organized by the Ministry. In each KIP the Diaspora youth visit one or two states – to familiarise themselves with that State. We are glad to announce that we will organize one KIP with the Govt of Telangana this year.

Overseas Indians are keen to give back to their place of origin and are looking for a credible platform through which they can do so. India Development Foundation IDF-OI is a not-for profit Trust set up by the Government. With contributions from overseas Indians IDF-OI is promoting Government of India’s flagship programmes: Swachh Bharat Mission and Clean Ganga Mission. IDF-OI is partnering with State Governments to offer projects in States for funding by overseas Indians. IDF OI is constructing a Primary Healthcare Centre in Suryapet district with funds received from an overseas Indian based in USA. I am happy to announce that IDF-OI will sign an MoU with Govt of Telangana today, the first such MoU.

Under the leadership of External Affairs Minister we strengthened the institutional framework for welfare and protection of Overseas Indians. In recent years we undertook massive operations to repatriate Indian nationals from conflict zones in Iraq, Yemen, Libya and South Sudan. We regularly advise our citizens to avoid travelling to or working in such risky, and conflict prone areas.

As you are aware, India has a major share in providing highly skilled and semi-skilled work-force to many countries. Every year on-line emigration clearance is being granted, for overseas employment – we granted 5.2 lakh such clearances in 2016. During last three years we adopted a holistic approach to strengthen regulatory framework to ensure safe and legal migration and welfare of our migrant workers. More than one lakh foreign employers in ECR countries have registered on e-Migrate portal to recruit Indian emigrants, through about 1500 Registered Recruitment Agents in India. These Foreign employers are validated by Indian Missions. To safeguard emigrants, Bank Guarantee deposited by RAs has been increased from Rs.20 Lakhs to Rs. 50 Lakhs.

Recruitment & Emigration Clearance for emigrating female workers has been mandated only through State Govt RAs, except permitting country specific orders for nurses’ emigration. All Indian female workers (holding ECR Passports) can be recruited only after visa attestation by Missions & deposit of Bank Guarantee of $2500/- in Missions in ECR Countries.

. We also need to take steps to prevent illegal emigration, which takes place from many small towns, cities and States. The names and addresses of illegal agents operating in all State Govts are shared every month with State Home Departments and IGs of Police, to enable them to prosecute them.

We request State Government to take suo-moto action, as illegal agents are operating within the State’s jurisdiction. We receive many complaints of human trafficking of female Domestic Sector Workers. State Government has to take exemplary action against illegal agents and coordinate with Police to curb such activities.

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) elaborating procedure to be followed by State Governments, on receipt of complaint/ grievance against illegal agents was forwarded in May 2016 to Chief Secretaries in several States including Telangana.

These issues were discussed in great detail on 8 May at a meeting chaired by EAM in New Delhi – where several senior Ministers from States participated – we are glad that Shri K.T Rama Rao actively participated in that meeting and assured the whole-hearted cooperation of Telangana in addressing these issues.

MEA launched a media awareness campaign on safe and legal migration in 2016 and in March 2017. The punch line is "surakshit jayein, prasikshit jayein, Aur vishwas ke saath jayein”. Ministry produced the Telugu advertisement also - and we request State Government to launch this campaign throughout the state in TV, Radio and other platforms. We requested State Government to display hoardings at prominent places about safe and legal migration and to avoid going through illegal recruitment agents.

We are enhancing skills set of emigrating workers under the programme Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana. India International Skill Centres are being opened up across India. One such Centre has been set-up in Hyderabad. In addition to providing technical skills of international standards, emigrant workers will be awarded Pre-Departure Orientation Training for enhancing awareness about local customs, language, orientation, rule and regulations of destination country.

We launched MADAD consular services management Portal in February 2015 to enable registration of complaints pertaining to Indians abroad and ensure prompt redressal of grievances. Indian Missions are expected to address or resolve these grievances in a time-bound manner. Any person in distress or any member of his family/ friends can register a complaint on this website.

The number of Indian students abroad is increasing – it stands at nearly 6.5 lakh a year, we are keen to map their data, location and courses they are studying. Therefore we set-up an Indian Students abroad portal in which they have been asked to register voluntarily.

Issuance of passports is one of the most visible public service being rendered by our Ministry. In last three years we comprehensively overhauled passport delivery system to ensure delivery in a timely, transparent, more accessible, reliable manner through streamlined processes.

To extend passport services to citizens on a larger scale and ensure wider geographical coverage, the Ministry and Department of Posts decided to utilize Head Post Offices as Post Office Passport Seva Kendra (POPSK) for delivering passport related services. With successful operationalization of two pilot projects at Dahod (Gujarat) and Mysuru (Karnataka) on 25 January, 2017, we decided to scale this up by opening 84 more POPSKs.

First time passport applicants who furnish Aadhaar Card, Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC), PAN Card and an affidavit in prescribed format, will get faster service, without payment of ‘tatkal fees. We simplified and liberalized rules and documentation for issuance of passports specifically those necessary in support of proof of date of birth. We discontinued notarizing Annexes and permitted use of self-declared statements.

I am also happy to inform that with the active cooperation of Police Departments of States, we reduced time taken for police verification before issue of passports to an average of 22 days. We are keen to reduce this further.

I congratulate the state of Telangana for being the first state which will be integrated with e-sanad, an electronic service delivery platform for Apostille/attestation of documents issued by Government of India.

At present, the applicant has to travel long distances to submit documents at Indian Mission/MEA/Branch Secretariats for Apostille/ attestation. With esanad the applicant can submit soft copy of his document and pay using online payment gateway.

Lastly, we are keen to consolidate our various offices in Hyderabad – RPO; POE, Branch Secretariat etc- in one place in the city. We requested Telangana Government to allocate land at a centrally located place to set up "Videsh bhavan”.

I hope that the discussions we have today, will be productive, educate the State Government officials who are present and result in a mutually beneficial interaction, so that we can deal more effectively with issues relating to overseas Indians and consular, passport services. I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to the State Government for the hospitality and excellent arrangements made for this event today.

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