The decision by the Indian government to make online registration mandatory for Indians when going for overseas employment is a good move in principle. The rule comes into effect from January 1, 2019, for the 18 countries, including the UAE, that comprise the list of employer countries requiring registration. The intention of extending the security blanket to cover even the Emigration Clearance Not Required (ECNR) passport holders holds good, but there needs to be a greater clarity on just how this will work in terms of employees’ welfare.
The eMigrate portal was set up by the Indian government in 2015 primarily to safeguard the interests of job-seekers who fall in the Emigration Required Category (ECR), comprising mainly of unskilled and illiterate blue collar workers, who are the most vulnerable segment of Indians seeking jobs abroad. The step was taken to protect them against human trafficking, illegal recruitment and exploitation because eMigrate requires the agents who recruit the ECR category of workers to also register with the portal, thereby ensuring transparency. The question is, with the ECNR category now also mandated to register, how will their job security be evaluated?
The most obvious payoff of this new move is that the Indian government will be able to have this crucial set of data as well. More than a dozen categories of Indian citizens automatically qualify for ECNR status, including income-tax payers, those below 18 years and above the age of 50, and those with an educational qualification of matriculation and above. This is a big chunk of its human resources moving abroad for work and their welfare is rightly the concern of the government. Beyond their general welfare, how will it protect them from job exploitation?
There are other concerns too: What exactly does the process of registration require? Can they pre-register earlier than 24 hours to boarding the flight, as the regulation requires? Is the tight window of 24 hours enough for an efficient result? What if there are glitches, as it transpired in 2015, when the eMigrate portal was on the blink on several occasions? How will it impact their travel plans? Are there provisions for any such lapses? In case of someone being offloaded due to non-registration, can they register immediately over the next 24 hours and resume their plans or will there be a time delay? Will there be any penalties?
The deadline for the regulation to take effect is just six weeks away and the sooner India provides details on these concerns, the better will prospective employees be able to streamline their schedules.