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Emigrating Indians need to be protected from fake jobs

Emigrating Indians need to be protected from fake jobs

Indian authorities have rescued citizens caught in fraudulent job schemes overseas, their recurrence underscores the urgent need to address the crisis.

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Last Updated : 16 April 2024, 05:14 IST
Last Updated : 16 April 2024, 05:14 IST
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The Government of India consistently emphasises the centrality of its citizens in its foreign policy. Yet reports earlier this year shed light on a concerning development in which Indian citizens recruited as army security helpers in Russia have found themselves coerced into combat roles in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Citizens trapped in Russia say their pleas to the Indian embassy in Moscow have gone unanswered.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) refuted such claims, saying “Each and every such case brought to the attention of the Indian Embassy in Moscow has been strongly taken up with the Russian authorities and those brought to the attention of the Ministry have been taken up with the Russian Embassy in New Delhi. Several Indians have already been discharged as a result.”

Nepali citizens have also been victims of the scheme, with many finding themselves fighting alongside Russian forces. The Interpreter highlighted in February that numerous Nepali individuals had migrated to Russia seeking jobs amid Nepal's staggering youth unemployment rate of 19.2 per cent. For some, it cost them their lives. This grim reality demonstrates the desperate plight of many South Asians who risk their livelihoods for their families.

Many Indians hoping to work abroad fall prey to fake job rackets. In 2022, numerous young Indians, particularly those with IT backgrounds, became victims of such rackets. Dubious IT firms, engaged in call-centre scams and cryptocurrency fraud, lured them with offers of lucrative employment. Despite promises of work in Thailand, the individuals were coerced into illegal activities in Myanmar. More recently, similar schemes were being reported out of Laos. While Indian authorities have rescued citizens caught in these fraudulent schemes, their recurrence underscores the urgent need to address the crisis.

In the past two years, more than 500 Indians have been duped by international job rackets across Southeast Asia, Russia, and West Asia. These are just official figures and one can only imagine what could the real numbers look like.

According to data from 2022, more than 13 million Indians were living abroad, including those employed in foreign countries. However, the Union government does not publish exact data of Indians emigrating each year for work. It only tracks people moving out for work with an ECR passport or moving to ECR countries (a special list of 18 countries based on poor labour laws or ongoing conflict), which in 2022 was around 370,000. Thus, it is quite important for the government to work out a mechanism which helps it detect and track the labour migration flows from India. This could contribute to tracking down citizens who are moved to non-ECR countries illegally.

While tracking could serve as a helpful mechanism, in case citizens have successfully migrated by illegal networks, attempts need to be made to raise awareness in the first place so that citizens are not duped by such illegal networks.

In December, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan outlined at the Rajya Sabha the various efforts undertaken by the government to raise awareness of illegal recruitment practices. They include issuing advisories and press releases, and conducting outreach activities in collaboration with state governments. However, recent incidents highlight a persistent lack of awareness, necessitating alternative solutions to combat the issue.

For this, there is a need for inter-ministerial co-ordination with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to enhance the effectiveness of awareness campaigns. Leveraging the MIB’s expertise and networks to disseminate relevant information through local channels in high-emigration states could significantly improve campaign outcomes. Furthermore, with so many illegal networks operating across India, it is not easy for the MEA to single-handedly address all aspects of emigration. Thus, there is also a need for inter-agency co-ordination with law enforcement agencies to carry out frequent assessment exercises that can track down and cease operations of illegal networks which dupe citizens with fake job offers.

Following the successful collaboration between government stakeholders and digital creators, the MEA should also look to engage with those creators who specialise in the niche of global work opportunities. They will play a crucial role in reaching audiences and could effectively communicate information about legal emigration channels through their digital platforms.

While the government has made commendable efforts to repatriate citizens ensnared in fraudulent job schemes abroad, the allure of opportunities overseas often blinds individuals to the risks, requiring additional precautionary measures to safeguard migrating citizens. This shall enable the MEA to further build upon its emigration brand of ‘Surakshit Jaaye Prashikshit Jaaye’.

(Arkoprabho Hazra is a manager, Aakhya India. X: @ArkoprabhoH.)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

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