India is the country with the largest diaspora that stands today at around 16 million mostly comprising the young, working age individuals. This diaspora is largely concentrated in the USA, followed by Germany, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Saudi has migrant workers in majority unlike in the USA where most migrants have become immigrants. For countries like Europe, this young immigrant population helps because of their own unproductive ageing population.
However, situations have changed today and the governments are thinking about the role of the diaspora in a country’s economy and global standing. The trend of including and being empathetic towards the diaspora began with the Rajiv Gandhi government following the Fiji Crisis of 1987. It made Indians settled in several other countries believe that India would come to their rescue in times of distress.
Consequent governments introduced a host of measures such as a separate Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, Person of Indian Origin Card, Overseas Citizen of India Card, Pravasi Bhartiya Samman Award, NRI funds, and voting rights for Indian citizens staying abroad. The Indian diaspora plays an important role by means of their remittances, investment, lobbying for India, promoting Indian culture abroad and for building India’s image through their intelligence and industry. It is also important for maintaining adequate foreign exchange reserves thereby lowering the Current Account Deficit.
Under the present scenario with hostilities rampant in West Asia, dwindling oil prices, changing of governments, and their not-so-positive attitude towards migrants (for example in USA, changing laws for immigrants (for example the 35000 Pounds Limit imposed by the European Union), a lot of migrants have been coming back thus creating pressure on the native country to provide jobs to these returnees. Remittances are falling thus increasing the Current Account Deficit.
People in India are questioning the government regarding money spent on these migrants from hostile countries to bring them back. All of this is pushing towards the debate regarding whether or not to allow Indians to move abroad. The question is not easy and the government should focus on finding solutions as curbing the movement of people would mean violating their Right to Move while also leading to other repercussions like growing demand-supply gap in offering jobs, fall in remittances, fall in quality of individuals, lowered global standing and so on and so forth.
Some solutions can be plans of rehabilitation for those returning, plans by the Centre and States to invest remittances intelligently and find alternative ways of livelihood for those who return. In order to increase the quality of human resources and maintain adequate foreign exchange while also promoting Indian culture, and acquire a global identity, the existence of a culture of free movement is necessary and therefore curbing this freedom would have detrimental effects.