Indians abroad: History, spread, remittances

Source– The post is based on the article “Indians abroad: History, spread, remittances” published in The Indian Express on 10th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Indian diaspora

News– The article explains the history, classification, numbers, geographical spread of diaspora. It also explains the remittances sent by them and their involvement in politics of the host country.

What is the history of diaspora in India?

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, thousands of Indians were sent to countries in the east pacific and the Caribbean islands under the ‘Girmitiya’ arrangement as indentured labourers. They were taken to work on plantations in British colonies, which were reeling under a labour crisis due to the abolition of slavery in 1833-34.

As part of the second wave of migration, nearly 20 lakh Indians went to Singapore and Malaysia to work in farms.

The third and fourth wave saw professionals heading to western countries. Workers were going to the Gulf and west Asian countries due to opportunities provided by the oil boom.

How can we classify overseas Indians?

Overseas Indians are classified into three categories: Non-Resident Indians (NRI), Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs), Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs).

NRIs are Indians who are residents of foreign countries. The PIO category was abolished in 2015 and merged with the OCI category.

According to the MEA, PIO refers to a foreign citizen who at any time held an Indian passport, or who or either of their parents/ grandparents/great grandparents was born and permanently resided in India as defined in Government of India Act, 1935, or who is a spouse of a citizen of India or a PIO.

A separate category of OCI was carved out in 2006. An OCI card was given to a foreign national who was eligible to be a citizen of India on January 26, 1950, was a citizen of India on or at any time after January 26, 1950, or belonged to a territory that became part of India after August 15, 1947.

What are the numbers and geographical spread of the diaspora?

According to a report of the Parliamentary committee on external affairs, as on December 31, 2021, there were 4.7 crore Indians living overseas. The number includes NRIs, PIOs, OCIs, and students.

The countries with over 10 lakh overseas Indians include the United States of America, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Saudi Arabia,  Myanmar, Malaysia, Kuwait and Canada.

According to the World Migration Report, by the International Organisation for Migration, India has the largest emigrant population in the world.

What is the situation of remittances in the case of India?

According to the latest World Bank Migration and Development Brief, for the first time, India is on track to receive more than $100 billion in yearly remittances.

The report notes that India, China, Mexico, the Philippines and Egypt in descending order are among the top five remittance recipient countries.

What is the level of involvement of the diaspora in politics of  their country of residence?

The vocal political positions taken by a section of the Indian diaspora is a recent phenomena. The Hindu American Foundation, a Hindu advocacy group based in the US, was set up in 2003.

What are the charges of biases against diaspora?

The parliamentary panel report pointed out that conventions such as the Pravasi Bharatiya Sammelan leaves out a large section of the diaspora that is not wealthy.

It expressed apprehension that low or semi-skilled and blue collar workers may not feel comfortable to participate in the said celebration. Participation and involvement should be more broad-based by accommodating the vulnerable sections of the diaspora community.


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