In a speech at the inaugural session of the 17th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention at Indore on January 9, 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India has the money to emerge as the skill capital and development engine of the world. The event was also attended by the President of Guyana, Irfaan Ali and the President of Suriname, Chandrikapersad Santokhi, who deliberated on “Diaspora: Reliable Partners for India’s progress in Amritkaal”. Prime Minister Modi’s reference to NRIs as ambassadors of India’s heritage will create a win-win situation for India and the countries where the Indian Diaspora live.
In a period spanning roughly a hundred years between 1830 and 1930, India witnessed one of the largest emigrations, involving nearly thirty million people who had gone to other countries in search of livelihood. These migrants constituted the labour force. They were employed in plantations as labourers, and this migrant labour force contributed significantly to the countries of a destination like Fiji, Mauritius, South Africa, East Africa and the islands of the Caribbean. It is further ascertained that while many Indians returned to their homeland after the contract period, some chose to remain in these countries. The Indian Diaspora in these Nations is now six or seven generational in depth.
But the migrations which happened after India attained freedom were different. By and large, they were skilled migrants comprising scientists and technologists. In the late twentieth century, many qualified and skilled people visited the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. During the same time, technicians comprising electricians, plumbers, AC mechanics, fitters, machinists, automobile servicing personnel, carpenters, and masons had migrated to the countries in West Asia. The descendants of these migrants have become second or third-generation Indian settlers.
The Indian Diaspora constitute roughly 32 million globally in the present day. People of Indian origin and overseas citizens of India have made our nation proud through their remarkable achievements and the positions they hold. They include administrators in United Nations (UN), university professors, scientists including Nobel Laureates, parliamentarians, senators, ministers, judges, doctors, CEOs in MNCs, writers, etc. Such exalted positions indicate international recognition, according to the dedication, loyalty, skills and integrity of the Indian community living in these countries. Studies on Indian Diaspora have revealed that the youth of Indian origin want to visit the land of their parents or grandparents’ origin to trace their roots.
In the fitness of things, India has emerged as one of the front runners in many areas of Science and technology in the world. India’s breakthrough in space research and agricultural sciences is well known. Her emergence as the world’s pharmacy and her IT sector feat is internationally acclaimed.
In this context, a symbiotic relationship between India and the countries where the Indian diaspora lives become imperative. The world has now moved to a stage where there is a growing feeling among people that growth and development are possible only through cooperation and not through conflict. To achieve such an objective, India has initiated several steps recently, including the supply of vaccines to mitigate the health issues caused by Covid-19. All these attempts of India to achieve universal brotherhood, at once bring before our mind’s eyes the famous statement of the universally acclaimed poet Kaniyanpoongundran “Yaadum oore Yavarum kelir”, which means “we belong to the entire world and all are our kinsmen”.
(The writer is a Retd professor and head of the Dept of Sociology, Madurai Kamaraj University)