The flow of remittances from non-resident Indians back to India has increased dramatically, having a significant impact on the country’s economy. India is the world’s largest recipient of expatriate remittances, according to a recent World Bank report. In 2023, an estimated $12.5 billion, equivalent to around 10.38 lakh crore rupees, is expected to enter India, representing a 12.5% increase over the previous year. This amount accounts for approximately 3.4 percent of the country’s GDP, representing an impressive 78.5 percent growth over a decade.
However, amid this surge, concerns remain about the treatment of expatriates, who contribute significantly to India’s foreign exchange earnings. The government has largely ignored important requests such as job opportunities in government sectors for those returning from overseas jobs, pension schemes for elderly expatriates, voting rights, and assistance in repatriating the deceased.
While the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) was established in 2009 to assist expatriates during emergencies, its use is unclear. The fund’s intended purposes, which include assisting non-resident Indians during crises abroad, have frequently been ignored, leaving expatriates to fend for themselves in times of great need.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Prime Minister’s Care Fund received substantial donations, including those from non-residents. However, when expatriates sought assistance after losing their jobs and requiring repatriation, the Fund did not provide the expected assistance. Expatriates had to fund their return journeys, highlighting the government’s failure to provide necessary assistance at a critical time.
Exorbitant airfares on the Kerala-Gulf flight routes are a recurring issue, with rates exceeding those of major cities such as Mumbai and Delhi. Despite calls for government intervention to regulate and ensure fair pricing, officials have declined to accept responsibility, citing an inability to interfere. However, existing aviation regulations give the government the authority to address excessive airfares, which are significantly underutilized. There is a widespread misconception among society and the government that the Indian Diaspora is primarily economically prosperous. However, a large number of expatriates work in harsh conditions, often in low-wage jobs such as supermarkets and cafeterias. Many people give up personal comfort for their families and country, enduring difficult conditions abroad. The scarcity of viable job opportunities in India frequently drives individuals to seek opportunities abroad, which contributes significantly to foreign remittances.
Despite their significant contributions to the national economy, the government’s failure to provide adequate support during crises and address their exploitation, such as unfair airfares, is a major oversight. The disparity in treatment between exporters, who receive significant benefits to boost foreign exchange, and expatriates, who contribute equally, raises serious concerns about the government’s reluctance to grant similar benefits to the latter.
The invaluable contributions of expatriates to India’s economic landscape necessitate a comprehensive and sympathetic approach from the government. Recognizing their sacrifices, addressing their grievances, and providing essential support is critical to conveying a sense of inclusivity and appreciation for their critical role in the country’s financial stability and growth.