With a net outflow of about a million each year excluding returnees, there are estimated at over 5 million Overseas Indian workers. A significant number of overseas Indian workers are women. The vast majority of these workers are temporary migrants and 90 percent of them work in the Gulf. These workers often face difficult living and working conditions in the host countries and they approach the Indian Missions for help. There have been a large number of cases of Indian workers not being taken care of by their sponsors/employers and seeking assistance from the Indian Missions. In order to look after the welfare of such workers, until such time their problems are solved, expenditure is required to be incurred on food, shelter, attestation of legal documents for death compensation and occasional hiring of casual staff as caretakers to look after their welfare.
- With an aim to provide necessary assistance owing to the above circumstance, GOI in 2010 set up a community welfare fund in 42 Indian missions abroad to facilitate extending help to Diaspora community in times of difficulty.
- The Indian Community Welfare Fund has been set up to offer various help was given including legal and financial help to distressed Indians living overseas.
The Indian Community Welfare Fund is aimed at providing ‘on-site’ welfare services on a means-tested basis in the most deserving cases including:
- Boarding and lodging for distressed overseas Indian workers in household / domestic sectors and unskilled labourers
- Extending emergency medical care to the overseas Indians in need;
- Providing air passage to stranded overseas Indians in need;
- Providing initial legal assistance to the overseas Indians in deserving cases
- Expenditure on incidentals and for airlifting
the mortal remains to India or local cremation/burial of the deceased overseas Indian in such cases where a sponsor is unable or unwilling to do so as per the contract and the family is unable to meet the cost.
How are ICWF funds disbursed?
- Currently, the Fund is administered by the following Heads Missions to provide various on-site welfare services to the Indian citizens who are in dire distress. The Heads of Missions/Posts are empowered to disburse from the ICWF for providing services on a means-tested basis in the most deserving cases. The Head of Mission considers requests, written or verbal, depending upon the seriousness or sensitivity of the circumstances on a case to case basis. The Officer in charge of the Labor Wing or the Officer designated for the purpose by the HOM will examine the case and forward his recommendation for HOM’s approval.
- Assistance towards boarding expenses per head will be fixed to a limit as approved by the HOM subject to a maximum of 15 days.
- The expenditure on incidentals and for airlifting mortal remains to India or local cremation/burial of deceased Overseas Indians in cases where the sponsor is unable or unwilling to do so as per the contract and the family is unable to meet the cost, is covered under ICWF.
- The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs provides an amount up to a maximum of Rs.15 lakh to a country in proportion to the size of the Indian workforce working in that country. The Ministry’s contribution is initially for a period of 3 years or till the fund becomes self-sustaining, whichever is earlier. The amount is released annually and is limited to meet the deficit in the financial resources of the missions with due regard to the utilization of the amount released during previous years.
- The Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) Indian Missions is placed at the disposal of the Heads of Missions and the Mission keeps the record of utilization of fund and beneficiaries. The Ministry has extended the ICWF in Indian Missions across the world.
- The ICWF would be funded through budgetary support from the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, funds raised by the Indian Missions by levying a nominal service charge on consular services and through Voluntary contributions from the Indian community.