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Address by Minister of State for External Affairs at the MEA-State Outreach Event Videsh Sampark Conference by MEA and Government of Karnataka in Bengaluru

February 26, 2020

Hon'ble Minister for Law, Parliamentary Affairs, Legislation and Minor Irrigation, Shri J.C. Madhu Swamy Ji,
Shri Sanjay Bhattacharyya, Secretary (CPV & OIA), Ministry of External Affairs
Shri Vijay Bhaskarji, Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka
Senior officials of the Government of Karnataka and other dignitaries

Friends of the Media

My colleagues from the Ministry of External Affairs

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very happy to be here in Bengaluru for the State Outreach Programme "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 organizing Ministry’s events in various State capitals. 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.

The State Government of Karnataka has always been a willing partner and cooperated with us in the past to organize diaspora related events. We have successfully partnered with Karnataka Government and organized three editions of Know India Programme. We also successfully partnered with Karnataka to organize 14th PBD Convention from 7 to 9 January, 2017, in Bengaluru on the theme "Redefining Engagement with the Indian Diaspora.” Today we are adding a new element to our partnership- a comprehensive dialogue on all aspects of diaspora matters. I wish to thank the Chief Minister Shri Yediyurappaji ji and his entire government for his assistance and efforts in organizing this event and making it a big success.

There are over 30 million Overseas Indians living abroad. Their hard-work, discipline, law-abiding and peace loving nature are role models for other immigrant communities abroad. For our government and for me personally, engagement with the overseas Indian community has been a key area of priority. Hon PM and other leaders in the government have met and spoken to hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters during their travels abroad. As a result of our sustained and systematic outreach, there is new energy, keen desire and strong drive among Indian Diaspora to connect more extensively and deeply with India’s social and economic transformation. The remittance of close to 76.4 billion dollars in 2018-19 by the overseas Indians makes an invaluable contribution to the Indian economy. NRIs and PIOs have made outstanding contributions to their chosen fields. Among them, there are politicians of stature, scientists of repute, outstanding doctors, brilliant educationists, economists, musicians, famous philanthropists, journalists, bankers, engineers and lawyers. The contribution of State of Karnatka in providing our Information Technology professionals are well known.

The Government is nurturing its relationship with the Indians and persons of Indian origin living abroad. We are broadly taking four-pronged strategy to achieve this. (i) We must make it easier to travel to India and that is exactly what motivates us today to reform our passport, visa and OCI scheme. By using technology, we have made consular, passport and visa services more people-friendly e.g. mobile Passport App, e-Passport, e-Visa, etc. The days of going to Passport Offices, Embassies and Consulates for such purposes and services are now over. (ii) We strive to make it more secure to work, travel and live abroad. To that end, a number of initiatives have been taken for our migrant workers, including pre-departure training programmes. Grievance redressal mechanisms such as e-Migrate, and the Madad portal are also examples of relevance. Our Embassies have also been equipped to assist those more vulnerable and in need.

(iii) Our goal is to be the first and immediate responder to those in distress situations, whether they are travellers who have lost documents, students in difficulty, women in distress or workers who need support. What started out some years ago as exceptions – 24x7 helplines, open-house meetings, Consular camps, week-end assistance, etc. – today these are the norm. My predecessor used to say that help is just a tweet away. That is still so, but now the response to the problem by our Missions is often as fast as the response to the tweet itself.

(iv) Keeping the bonds between India and the new generation of the diaspora is a major focus of our activities. The living bridge must be renewed and refreshed.

Delivering passport services to our citizens in a timely, transparent, more accessible and in a reliable manner continues to remain a priority area of my Ministry. We were able to issue more than 1.22 crore passports both in India and abroad during the calendar year 2019.

Ministry of External Affairs in association with the Department of Posts announced an innovative initiative in January 2017 to open Passport Seva Kendras in the Post Offices in the country called ‘Post Office Passport Seva Kendra’ (POPSK). It is a matter of great satisfaction that Mysuru in Karnataka was selected for the pilot project. We have moved ahead since then and have functionalized 424 POPSK and I am happy to note that out of these 424 POPSK, 23 are working in Karnataka. Together with 93 Passport Seva Kendras, of which 5 are in Karnataka, we have 517 Passport Kendras in the country enabling us to take passport services closer to the people. This is more than six times the 77 Passport Kendras that were functioning in 2014.

My Ministry and the Department of Posts are committed to open a POPSK in every Lok Sabha Constituency (LSC) where there is no PSK or POPSK to ensure that there is at least one PSK or POPSK available in every Lok Sabha Constituency. 488 out of the 543 Lok Sabha Constituencies, including all in Karnataka, have been covered by these 517 PSK and POPSK in the country. We intend to open the remaining POPSK in the coming days and are working closely with the Department of Posts (DoP) for this purpose.

We have also started integrating the passport issuance system of our Missions and Posts abroad into the Passport Seva Programme (PSP). The 56 Missions and Posts that have been integrated till date issue more than 90 percent of passports abroad. Work is in progress to bring all the Missions and Posts abroad on the PSP platform.

One important area where we can strengthen partnership with the States – is our engagement with the overseas Indian community through various programmes in the Ministry. The Ministry completed very successful 15th edition of PBD Convention in Varanasi from 21-23 January 2019. We are planning to hold the 16th PBD Convention in January 2021.

With an aim to help PIO youths familiarize with their roots and contemporary India’s art, culture and heritage and provide them an exposure to the country of their origin, Know India Programme was launched by the Ministry. Since its inception Ministry has, so far, conducted 59 editions of this programme, with the participation of a total number of 2061 Diaspora youth from 49 countries. We partner with States to implement this porgramme.

We have partnered with Karnataka in the past to organzie Know India Programme. I request Hon Chief Minister to consider hosting one group of Know India Programme participants later this year.

With an aim to provide the elder generation of Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) an opportunity to reconnect with their roots, Pravasi Teerth Darshan Yojana (PTDY) was introduced in 2019, which is a 17 days programme. The programme is available for PIOs from Girmitya countries of Fiji, Guyana, Mauritius, South Africa, Suriname, Trinadad & Tobago and Reunion Island.

Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children was also introduced to make higher education in Indian Universities/Institutes in different fields (except Medical and related courses in India) accessible to the Diaspora children and promote India as a centre for higher studies. Presently, under the Scheme, 150 scholarships are awarded to Children of Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs), Non-resident Indians (NRIs) and Indian Workers in ECR countries up to an amount of US$ 4000 per annum for pursuing undergraduate courses in India.

The Media Awareness Campaign on safe and legal migration for overseas Indian workers with the slogan ‘Surakshi Jaao Prashikshit Jaao’ is being run through audio-visual and print media. The ads were also disseminated on social media by using twitter and facebook. Many States are also running ads on safe and legal migration in cinema halls, on local cable network and through other means of electronic and print media. We are also trying to rope in prominent personalities from various states to promote safe and legal migration. So far five prominent personalities have agreed to take part in the campaign. I am happy to inform you that Shri Puneeth Rajkumar, a prominent film personality has kindly agreed to to take part in the campaign in Kannada.

As I said earlier, the welfare of migrant workers have been accorded highest priority by the government and we are continuously working to improve our systems and take further steps to ensure it. The institutional framework for support and welfare of Indians workers abroad, including those in Gulf countries, has been considerably strengthened over last five years. The Indian Community Welfare Fund, the MADAD portal, e-Migrate system, Pravasi Bharatiya Sahayata Kendras, Pravasi Bhartiya Bima Yojana, help-lines, shelter homes etc. are some of the important steps to expeditiously assist Indian nationals abroad.

We believe that pre-departure orientation and skill upgradation of migrants is a crucial step in ensuring safe migration with more benefits for the migrants. Government of Indian has launched Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PKVY), a scheme aimed at enhancing the skill-set of Indian workers going abroad. The Scheme includes domain training (technical top up) and certification bench marked to international standards as well as Pre Departure Orientation aimed at enhancing the soft skill of migrant workers. We have planned to impart Pre-Departure Orientation Training to 5 Lakh (half a million) emigrant workers going for overseas employment by 2022. I am happy to note that a workshop on Awareness on Migration and Pr-departure Orientation was held in Bengluru last month in co-ordiantion with MEA and Skill Development Department, Government of Karnataka.

The Government has also established Indian Community Welfare Fund in all Indian missions and posts abroad to help Indian nationals in distress. Over 96,000 Indian nationals already have been benefited under this scheme during the last five years. Around 66,000 of them are from GCC countries. The Government has also mandatory insurance scheme for all Emigration Check Required (ECR) category workers going to ECR countries w.e.f. August 2017. The scheme is known as revamped Pravasi Bharatiya Bima Yojana (PBBY) and it provides an insurance cover of 10 Lakhs in case of accidental death or permanent disability and few other benefits at a nominal insurance premium of Rs. 275 and Rs. 375 for a period of two and three years respectively.

Migration is a worldwide phenomenon and migrant workers accounted for 150 million of the world's approximately 232 million international migrants. The receiving countries greatly benefit from the migrant workers as they fulfill the critical manpower and skill deficit and propel them on path of development, while sending countries receive remittances. Thus ensuring that the migration is safe and regulated is not only in interest of all the countries but it is an effective tool as we embark on the journey of growth and development to ensure prosperity for all humankind. This potential of migration is recognized by UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) when they call for motivating countries to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people. Therefore, series of efforts have been taken by the government in the recent past to ensure safe, harmonious and productive migration.

Keeping these into consideration, we are pursuing Migration and Mobility Partnerships with advanced economies, which are mainly aimed at harnessing India’s demographic dividend and fostering mobility for our students, academics, business people and professionals. First such agreement was signed between India and France during the State Visit of French President in March 2018. We also signed a Joint Declaration on India and Portugal Mobility Partnership during the State Visit of President of Portugal on 14 February 2020. We are negotiating similar agreements with other countries such as Germany, Benelux countries, UK and Australia. We are undertaking activities of mutual interest under an ongoing project with European Union under the aegis of India-EU Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility (CAMM).

We have set in place MOUs/Agreements with the countries of destination in the Gulf, mainly Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Jordan which provide the overarching framework for cooperation on labour and manpower related issues. We also have a Labour Mobility Partnership Agreement with Denmark.

With the adoption of Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in December 2018, world is increasingly realizing the intrinsic correlation between migration and development and also the fact, that it is not only the migrant or his host and origin country, who benefit from the process but international migration today is an essential ingredient to keep the growth engines of the world roaring.

Another main area of responsibility of the Ministry has been to focus on the repatriation of Indian nationals in distress in foreign countries. In addition, the Government has undertaken special operations to facilitate return of Indian nationals from conflict and disaster affected regions. In operations conducted in countries including Ukraine, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Nepal and south Sudan and recently in China, more than 20,000 Indian nationals were evacuated since 2014.

I hope that the discussions we have today, will be productive and benefit 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, consular, passport services and other issues concerning trade, investment and foreign policy issues. I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to the State Government for the hospitality and excellent arrangements made for this event today.

Thank you


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