India pushing Gulf countries for liberal labour laws

January 8th, 2012 - 3:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Jaipur, Jan 8 (IANS) India will enter into bilateral agreements with the Gulf countries to curb exploitation of Indian labour in the region and ensure a decent working environment for its diaspora, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said Sunday.Addressing the inaugural session of the annual diaspora meet here, Ravi said India has already signed bilateral agreements with some of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to ensure a decent work environment for its diaspora, especially women workers.

The minister said majority of Indian workers in the Gulf region were on temporary contractual visas employed in informal sectors.

“They often do not have the protection of labour laws in the host countries. A significant number of them are women. This makes them especially vulnerable to economic downturns and sometimes exploitation,” Ravi said.

Ravi said the appalling conditions of work and the absence of social security protection for women domestic workers in the Gulf region needed strong governmental interventions.

“Even the International Labour Organisation has recently drawn attention to the urgency in this regard,” he said.

The minister said an estimated five million Indians were employed on contractual temporary visas abroad mostly in Gulf countries and Malaysia.

“There is a net annual outflow of over half a million workers from India, excluding returnees,” he said.

Ravi complimented the contribution of these workers in the development of Indian economy.

“These workers make a significant contribution to India and account for close to 40 percent of the total remittances that India receives each year,” he said.

According to a World Bank report, India is estimated to receive around $60 billion remittance in 2011.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday formally inaugurated the 10th annual diaspora meet called the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) here.

The event is aimed to connect India with its around 30-million strong diaspora spread in over 130 countries across the world.

“Over the years the PBD has gained in stature and is now globally recognized as a pre-eminent platform for overseas Indians to engage with India and its leadership,” Ravi said.

On the occasion, Ravi announced that Indian government has created a special fund called “Indian Community Welfare Fund” that will be used to provide “on-site” welfare services to overseas Indians in distress.

The new fund is placed at the command of the heads of the Indian missions across the world.

The fund provides for food, shelter, legal assistance and other welfare support to overseas Indians on a “means tested” basis.

(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be reached at gyanendra.k@ians.in)

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