Kerala Slams Merger of Overseas, External Affairs Ministries

Kerala has raised strong objections to the Centre’s decision to merge Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MoIA) with External Affairs Ministry (MEA). The state has termed it an insult to the NRI community and slammed the Centre for not consulting stake holders and for the lack of proper analysis before taking the decision.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy demanded that it be revoked to avoid any adverse effects. He also criticised the decision to scale down the diaspora meet, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations, held every January 9th.

Kerala CM Oommen Chandy
Kerala CM Oommen Chandy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, on Thursday, cleared the proposal to merge the MOIA with MEA in keeping with its broad principle of minimum government, maximum governance.

“The abrupt decision on the merger was a surprise and the justification of the decision saying that it would only improve things, was not entirely convincing,” said the Kerala CM. He also submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister on Friday listing out the objections and pointing out that the MoIA addressed the problems of overseas Indians, especially Keralites, in a most effective manner.

MoIA formed after Kerala’s insistence

MoIA was formed almost 12 years back, at insistence of Kerala, with the objective to deal with various issues of Overseas Indians and also to frame schemes for their comprehensive welfare. (At the state level, Kerala was the first to form a separate ministry for the diaspora in 2001.)

The MoIA had succeeded in amending the rules for providing voting rights to overseas Indians, extending dual citizenship, implementing insurance and pension schemes, recalled Chandy. He also brought up the Ministry’s effective intervention during crisis situations in Yemen, Libya and Iraq.

Former chief minister V S Achuthanandan said the merger would “seriously affect” Keralites living abroad.

V S Achuthanandan
V S Achuthanandan

“It is an insult to the diaspora (from Kerala). Moreover, the state government’s Norka department (the agency that looks after the welfare of the Kerala diaspora) will face a tough time after the merger of the two ministries. This (decision) should be reconsidered,” Achuthanandan said in a statement.

Prof K V Thomas, former federal minister and Congress Leader told an online portal that the MoIA has been focussing on issues faced by Indian expats whereas MEA concentrated on diplomatic and trade relationships. He warned that this procedure will dilute the care for NRIs (Non-resident Indian).

He also reminded that the diaspora last year contributed Rs 4.83tn and make significant investments in India which are comparable to large FII inflows.

Merger to avoid duplication of work

The central government feels the decision would help avoid duplication of work and save a lot of time and energy.

“As minister for external affairs & overseas Indian affairs, I realised that a substantial amount of work of the MoIA is done through our missions abroad,” tweeted Sushma Swaraj, who has already received appreciation for her quick and effective measures to repatriate workers trapped in conflict zones and prompt action even on complaints received on her Twitter handle.

“Therefore, I proposed to the prime minister that the MoIA be merged with the ministry of external affairs.”

“This merger will help us dovetail our outreach to the diaspora with our foreign policy objectives better,” she said.

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas scaled down

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was kicked off in 2003 by then Pime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee. It is usually conducted on January 9 every year in remembrance of Mahatma Gandhi’s return from South Africa. The Centre has decided to have limited editions of the event from now on.

“It was a platform for the diaspora to express their demands and grievances and also an opportunity for the government to interact with them,” a webportal quoted K.C Joseph, the state minister of the diaspora, as saying.