This post was originally published on 8 January 2016 and the content may be outdated.
The Government of India has decided to merge the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in keeping with its broad principle of Minimum Government, Maximum Governance.
The move follows a request made by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Sushma Swaraj is also the Minister in charge of MOIA.
Sushma Swaraj in a series of tweets on Thursday stated, “As Minister for External Affairs & Overseas Indian Affairs , I realized that substantial work of MOIA is done through our missions abroad.”
“Therefore, I proposed to Hon’ble Prime Minister that MOIA should be merged with the Ministry of External Affairs. Hon’ble Prime Minister has kindly accepted my proposal. So MOIA will now be part of Ministry of External Affairs,” she added.
Move to avoid duplication of work
Explaining the official line, Vikas Swarup spokesperson of MEA, said the merger of MOIA was to avoid “duplication” as most of the work of MOIA was done by Indian missions abroad.
According to MEA, the merger is expected to increase efficiency in MEA’s emergency work abroad.
The role of MOIA
The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) was established in May 2004 as the Ministry of Non-Resident Indians' Affairs. However, it was renamed as the MOIA in September 2004.
The primary task of the MOIA was to connect the Indian diaspora with its motherland. Positioned as a Services Ministry, it provides information, partnerships and facilitations for all matters related to Overseas Indians: Non-Resident Indians and Persons of Indian Origin.
Initially, there have been two separate ministers in charge of Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). However, since May 2014 External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Minister of State in MEA VK Singh were handling both the ministries.
Kerala Government raises strong objection to merger
Kerala Government today raised "strong objections" to Centre's decision and said it will raise the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Chief Ministry Oommen Chandy, who is in the national capital, said the MOIA was created due to persistent insistence of Kerala and the decision to merge the two ministries was not "right" as the MOIA addressed the problem of overseas citizens, especially from Kerala, in much effective manner.
"We have strong objections over the merger of MOIA with MEA. It was at our insistence that the then UPA government set up the Ministry with Vaylar Ravi as its first Minister.
"This Ministry helped to tackle the problems of overseas citizens diplomatically especially during the problem over Nitaqat law in Saudi Arabia. It also helped in effective redressal of issues related to migration, labour laws and working conditions of Indians," Chandy told PTI.
The Kerala CM also attacked the government for its decision to abandon the full-fledged Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD), a programme to connect with the Indian diaspora.
Around 16 lakh Keralites reside abroad, of which a large chunk is in the Gulf nations. The community also sends a large amount of remittance to the country. In 2014-15, the figure crossed Rs 1 lakh crore.