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The Missing Links

Draft Emigration Bill, 2019

The evolution of the Indian Emigration Policy framework is traced since the inception of the Emigration Act, 1922, and the draft Emigration Bill, 2019 is examined. While the 2019 draft bill includes all emigrant workers and students within its purview, it continues to exclude the family and undocumented migrants. Given the magnitude of family migration from India, this is a major oversight. Of the different stages of the migrant life cycle, the 2019 draft bill focuses mostly on pre-departure while ignoring the rights of migrants at their destination and their eventual return migration. For the draft Emigration Bill, 2019 to be truly effective, it needs a rights-based approach inclusive of all Indian migrants abroad.

India has the largest number of migrants abroad in the world today. It is also the largest remittance receiving country in the world. In January 2019, just three months before the Lok Sabha elections, the Ministry of External Affairs published a Draft Emigration Bill for public comments. The 2019 draft bill aims to change the direction of policy from the regulation of emigration to its management. The attempt is to understand the institutional framework of emigration in India and comprehend how the 2019 draft bill perceives and aims to manage the world’s largest emigrant population. First, the history of migration in India and the roots of modern day migration in the colonial period is briefly summarised, including the emergence of the Emigration Act, 1922. Second, the forms of migration post independence and the conditions under which India adopted the Emigration Act, 1983 in the light of large-scale emigration of semi-skilled and unskilled labourers is dwelt upon. Third, after understanding the institutional framework of the Emigration Act, 1983, the new draft Emigration Bill, 2019 is assessed and the major gaps in its approach to emigration is discussed. This underscores how the 2019 draft bill inadvertently further regulates the entire emigration process, which is far from its desired objective of managing it. Finally, the urgent need for an ex ante migrants’ rights approach towards emigration is emphasised.

Emigration from India

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Updated On : 30th Jul, 2019

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