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Articles:Conference paper abstracts on Indian diaspora all over the world Rahul Patel Mumbai, India.


Culture and economy in the Indian diaspora: the British experience

Roger Ballard, University of Manchester, UK  

Although the contemporary South Asian presence in Britain - currently between 1.5 and 2 million strong - is very largely a product of the processes of mass migration generated by acute industrial labour shortages which emerged during the post WW2 economic boom, its initial roots can be traced to the latter part of the nineteen century. Nor has its growth been halted by tightening patterns of immigration control: complex patterns of inflow (largely from the sub-continent) and outflow (largely to North America) are now beginning to emerge. Britain's South Asian population also displays a high level of internal differentiation, by national and regional origin (Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi, as well as Punjabi, Kashmiri, Gujarati and Sylheti), by religion (Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Christian), and by caste and class of origin in the subcontinent, let alone in terms of the additional forms of differentiation that have emerged during the course of settlement in the UK.  

The central aim of this paper will therefore be to set out a brief account of the origins, growth, and increasing diversification of the South Asian presence in Britain, and in so doing to explore the differential trajectories of adaptation, community formation, and of upward socio-economic mobility which each of its major subsections have begun to display. Particular attention will be paid to the precise character of the cultural and ideological capital on which each group has drawn to fuel those processes of adaptation, and in that context the ways in which the transnational links which members of each group are still involved include - and seem likely to continue to include - some kind of sustained involvement with their ancestral homebase in the sub-continent.  

The final section of the paper will turn the whole question around, and explore the impact which emigration has had - and seems likely to have - on socio-economic and cultural developments in the villages and towns of origin from which members of this section of the South Asian diaspora have been drawn.  

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Hinduism in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. (With special reference to Tamil religion and the centrality of the Amman Goddesses)

Alleyn Diesel

The language groups represented among the immigrants who came from India to Natal, South Africa, from 1860 onwards, are Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, and Gujerati, with Tamil people forming the vast majority. After the expiry of their indentures most of these Indians moved to the cities, becoming established as a thoroughly urban population. However, because of the apartheid system the majority tended to remain poor, with few opportunities for improvement. The forced removals programme caused great disruption and social hardship for Indian people. The extended family system was largely destroyed, with negative consequences for many, resulting in various social problems. Tamil people are, at present, becoming increasingly aware of, and taking renewed pride in, their heritage. This has resulted in concerted moves to recover knowledge of the vernacular.  

The worship of Dravidian "folk" deities is very prevalent in Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal), its popularity apparently increasing yearly. The Amman (Mother) Goddesses are, for many people, the most popular and visible focus of worship, with considerable emphasis placed on their healing powers. Over the 140 years of residence in South Africa, the ritual of daily puja, and of festivals, has been meticulously preserved, but knowledge of the accompanying mythology is steadily being lost. Although many scholars, both Hindu and non-Hindu, tend to ignore the Goddess phenomenon, I believe that Amman religion offers an ancient, vibrant, and contemporarily relevant spirituality. The Draupadi firewalking festival, which is very popular in KZN, consists of ritual and mythology characteristic of most Amman religion. Participation in this, and other similar festivals, brings devotees a valuable sense of identity and solidarity, especially as members of a community that was marginalized and discriminated against by apartheid. Loring Danforth (1989) has drawn attention to the potential for healing and empowerment, especially for women, in the ritual of firewalking. The mythology of the Amman Goddesses (including that of Draupadi) recounts how women have gained victory over male intimidation and violence, thus demonstrating their purity and strength. 

I suggest that women can find in the stories of these Goddesses powerful role models, and a challenge to join the struggle against the violence perpetrated by patriarchal domination. For many Hindus, a new awareness of their Tamil heritage could be powerfully inspirational and healing.  

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Media Culture and Economy in the Indian Diaspora
Marie Gillespie, University of Wales Swansea  

This paper will examine changing patterns of media consumption in the Indian diaspora, and how communications technologies are being appropriated to sustain old and forge new kinds of transnational communities.

General issues of diaspora cultural politics will be explored through case studies in media anthropology. We will look at how Hindi films and music may sustain forms of 'diaspora consciousness' that transcend nationalist identifications, and reinforce notions of Hindutva. The consumption of media in Indian languages may play a role not only in religious education and language maintenance, but also in the negotiation of meanings of 'home', belonging and citizenship, as well as in performances of plural identities and communities among British Indian families.

The impact of recent developments in communications technologies on the availability and take-up of media produced in India and the diaspora, in a variety of Indian languages, as well as in 'Hinglish' and English has scarcely begun to be studied. We will explore the appropriation of 'new' technologies to mobilise transnational spaces to sustain, promote or transform political-religious affiliations.

One aim of the paper is to generate discussion about the development of a media anthropology of/in the South Asian diaspora. The progress of this sub-discipline has been impeded by the problems of sustaining dialogue between hitherto

distinct and competing paradigms of social scientific research. There is little productive dialogue between those working on qualitative analyses of micro socio-cultural processes and those conducting studies of macro structures from a political economy perspective. These different perspectives can indeed and should be brought together if this
embryonic, patchy but growing field is to make a significant contribution to studies of transnationalism.

What we need are more multi-sited, locally grounded ethnographic case studies where the inter-relationships between cultural, political and economic processes are analysed in non-mechanistic ways. It is only through such comparative case studies that we will be able to grasp more fully the contradictions that lie at the heart of contemporary cultural developments. In India and its diaspora, as indeed elsewhere, the twin and simultaneous tendencies towards global cultural homogenisation and fragmentation are being played out against the backdrop of an increasingly complex relationship between forces of secular cosmopolitanism and of ethnic/religious particularism. Future developments are unpredictable but, especially in a new era of 'symbolic poltics' the consequences of media representations, consumption practices, and reconfigurations of audiences and publics for all our political cultures are likely to be weighty.  

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Changing Factors of Indian Diaspora in East Africa

Anirudha Gupta, Institute for the Study of Developing Countries, New Delhi  

The paper covers four major dimensions of Indian presence in East Africa: a) demographic b) political – historical c) economic and d) cultural. It also tries to raise issues pertaining to the future of Indians in East Africa.

Some controversies that never die among Indians are: if India and not Britain, was given Mandate to administer German East Africa, demanded by British India government and Indian nationalists (Sashtri, Sarojini Naidu etc.) would it have helped transplant a larger number of Indians into Tanganyika, and made Tanganyika an Indian colony? Alternatively, would Indian presence in Tanganyika have acted as a brake against white racism in Kenya and racist policies of apartheid South Africa? Second, why did Indians play an important role in the nationalist politics of pre-independent India? Why did it disappear after India became independent. Could India have pursued any policy other than the one charted out by its first Prime Minister? Third, How do new Indians fair vis-à-vis Africans as compared with old Indians?  

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Chota Bharat, Mauritius: from myth to reality

Vinesh Y Hookoomsing, University of Mauritius  

Among the Indian diaspora scattered over the world, the Indo-Mauritians offer the shining profile of what looks like the most successful overseas Indian community. Hindus and Muslims together, they represent more than two-thirds of the population of Mauritius, a demographic reality which is by itself of considerable weight given the size of the island and of its overall population. They have shaped the social, cultural and political life of modern Mauritius, and provided political leadership ever since the emergence of their elite in the 1930s. India, the ancestral motherland, is not very far, and the same Indian Ocean baths the shores of the subcontinent and the island. Mauritius thus seems to possess all the necessary ingredients that would make it look like the ideal reference within the Indian diaspora. To what extent that may be truly the case is a matter of appreciation. But the signs of the Indo-Mauritian "miracle" are very visible, so much so that one is tempted to go beyond appearances.

With this in mind, I will examine the theme of my paper from a three-fold perspective, namely:

  1. the sunny post-card view from the seaside, depicting the colourful presence of India in Mauritius;
  2. the "cloudy" cane-field view from inland, unveiling the dilemma of being and becoming experienced by the Mauritian of Indian origin as he moves in the plural insular society created only three centuries ago as a result of colonisation,
  3. the hazy view from beyond the horizon, revealing progressively the threat and challenge of modernity and globalisation, and making more and more elusive the old concepts of cultural heritage, unity and identity."

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Culture and economy in an "incipient" diaspora: Indians in the Persian Gulf Region.

Prakash C. Jain, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

This paper discusses the contemporary Indian Diaspora in the Persian Gulf region, particularly in the six G.C.C. countries, namely, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain which jointly host about 95% of the about 3 million Indian immigrants. Large scale Indian migration to these countries is a relatively recent phenomenon- less than 30 years old. Oil economy and the scarcity of native workforce there largely determined the patterns of this form of migration from India. Most migrants originate in Kerala and other south Indian states and happen to be young, unmarried, less educated and unemployed or underemployed. The migration is "circular" in nature – migrants preferring to stay only for a few years at a time and looking for an opportunity to migrate again.


Given the stringent naturalization and citizenship laws prevalent in the Gulf countries it is almost impossible for any immigrant to become a citizen of any Gulf country. Lack of any political rights for non – citizens, vast gap between host society and foreign workers, fear of cultural pollution on the part of the ruling Arab elites and the patterns of dualism (Arab vs. non – Arab, citizens vs. non – citizens etc.) rather than pluralism renders the Indian immigrants as "separate and unequal" in all the Gulf Countries. It may not be an exaggeration to describe these Indian immigrants as ‘social pariah’.


On the contrary, the economic relationship between the Indian immigrants in the Gulf and the host countries can best be described as "symbiotic". The Indians are always in need of those extra bucks and the Arab regimes find in Indian immigrants a hardworking, disciplined and docile manpower. At the same time the Indian Government is equally pleased to have in Gulf migrants a secure source of remittances and some economic investment. Geographical proximity as well as a degree of socio-cultural affinity characterized by patriarchy provides enough room for the Indians in the Gulf countries to transplant their socio-cultural habits and artifacts. Not surprisingly, Indian movies, music shows, cricket matches and certain food items are exceedingly popular not only among the immigrants but also the Arab masses. Gold being the most favourite metal of Indians provides another reason for them to go to the Gulf countries, which have emerged as major centres of Gold transaction.

In the mid –1980s Prof. Myron Weiner described the Indian labour immigrants in the Middle East as "incipient diaspora". The situation probably has not changed much since then and is not likely to change in the near future. An overwhelming majority of Indian immigrants in the Gulf countries would continue to remain as pure and simple " Non-Resident Indians".  

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Culture and economy: Tamilians on the plantation frontier in Malaysia revisited, 1998-99.

Ravindra K. Jain, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi  

This will be a brief account of culture and economy largely among ex-estate Tamilians in a region of West Malaysia whom I first studied in early 1960s and then revisited during December 1998 to February 1999.My focus would be to outline sociocultural changes at the micro-level and how these relate to changes in Malaysian economy, society and polity during the last three-and-a-half decades. I engage with those writers who describe Indians in Malaysia as 'the poverty group' by presenting field-data which show forces of involution and evolution that have been at work jointly in the Tamilian diaspora in Malaysia.  

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The politics of cultural renaissance in the Indian diaspora: the case of Trinidad

N. Jayaram, Goa University, India

Over a century and a half, the descendants of the indentured immigrants from India have emerged as a vibrant diasporic community in the Caribbean. The experience of the diasporic Indians in the different Caribbean countries has been obviously varied: From being marginalised in Jamaica, through bitter ethnic confrontation in Guyana and Suriname, to a position of near dominance in Trinidad. This paper seeks to locate the politics of cultural renaissance among the Indo-Trinidadians in the context of their politico-economic competition with the Afro-Trinidadians. It is divided into two parts: Part One sketches the evolution of the Indian diasporic communities in the Caribbean, and examines the factors and forces which have shaped their differential socio-cultural situation and politico-economic positions vis-à-vis other communities in different countries. Part Two focuses on the Indo-Trinidadians, and analyses their politics of cultural renaissance and contestation.  

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India and contemporary emigration: retrospective culture, futuristic economy.

Binod Khadria, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Abstract: This paper makes a distinction between the elements, which determine the connection of culture on the one hand, and that of the economy on the other, with contemporary emigration from India. Since ‘culture’ of a community can be taken to be determined over a period of time and not instantaneously, the ‘present’ culture of the Indian diaspora may be attributed to its ‘past’ psycho-social characteristics. In contrast, futuristic economic requirements or projections in the recipient-country
labour market determine the contemporary migration rather than get determined by it. It is in this sense that culture here is a retrospectively determined phenomenon whereas economy is a prospectively determining one. This perhaps explains the segregation of culture from economy in the discourse on contemporary Indian diaspora.

The paper begins with an attempt to understand what is specifically meant by the term ‘contemporary’ in contemporary emigration from India in terms of time and space: Post-mid-twentieth century emigration of Indian workers (‘Service’ as well as ‘Knowledge’ Workers) to the industrial and/or oil-rich countries of the west (including West Asia), particularly of the last three decades. The trends in these emigrations are presented in considerable detail. This is followed by a premise of the culture-economy segregation in the Indian diaspora context. The culture of the contemporary Indian diaspora – in terms of the structure of the cultural consumption patterns of the non-resident Indians (NRIs) and the persons of Indian origin (PIOs)
abroad – is assumed to be taking perceptible shape with a lag following migration. At the same time, it is asserted that contemporary migration itself gets shaped by (i.e. lags behind) futuristic needs and requirements of the labour markets of the evolving recipient economy.

Diaspora culture abroad thus remains linked strongly with the past ‘home-culture’ rather than present or future (evolving) culture in the parent country. In a double-contrast, on the other hand, it is the ‘host-economy’, and the present as well as futuristically evolving host-economy, which in terms of differentials with the ‘home-economy’ remains strongly linked with the members of the diaspora. Culture and
economy thus follow more or less separate and independent connections with the diaspora. In other words, it is the ‘diverging’ home-culture-and-host-economy combination, which dominates the diaspora life-style (rather than any other ‘converging’ combination). It is perhaps this, which explains why contemporary Indian diaspora strives to establish, revive, and maintain cultural contacts back home but leaves the economic contacts to be initiated and nurtured by the Indian State. With the second/third generation of native-born members of the diaspora growing up amidst an assimilating culture, it is conjectured that the cultural bond between the diaspora and the home country becomes weak enough to be lost sight of. What remains on the Indian State side is a ‘brain drain’. Whereas the consequences of brain drain are discussed and analyzed at length in the paper, it emphasizes a need to analyze the causes and consequences of contemporary culture of the Indian diaspora in a juxtaposing perspective.

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Indian immigrants in the United States: transnationalism and the American dream

Johanna Lessinger, University of New Hampshire, USA  

The paper outlines the socio-economic characteristics of the large, post-1965 immigration of educated, professionally trained Indians to the United States. Professional success in the fields of medicine, engineering, finance, manufacturing and business is important of an Indian immigrant "model minority" within a multi-ethnic U.S. society. This group’s general prosperity and integration into the American middle class tends to obscure the sizeable fraction of the Indian immigrant population holding more humble jobs in the service and manufacturing sectors, whose experiences more closely parallel those of other new immigrants. These class divisions within "the community" in the U.S. are only gradually gaining recognition.

The paper goes on to outline some of the ways that Indians in the U.S. remain a transnational population, still closely connected to "home" by a constant interchange of people, images, consumer items and ideas between the two countries. Within this configuration the NonResident Indian, or NRI, is an important figure, returning to India as visitor and investor, seen as both a cause and a symbol of unwanted social change. The demand of NRIs for the right to hold dual citizenship in India and to have a political role there raises issues of cultural identity and political autonomy.

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Imagining diasporas: a cultural history of South Asians in Canada

Harjot Oberoi, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia

The South Asian community in Canada has an extraordinarily rich history of settlement and expansion extending over a hundred years. This paper seeks to locate and address the history of this community and its various ethnicities primarily through its cultural production: novels, poetry, memoirs, and local histories.  

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Transnational Linkages Between India and Britain: An Exploration of Socio-Economic Ties Between Patidars of Central Gujarat and Greater London

Pravin J. Patel, University of Baroda and Mario Rutten, University of Amsterdam  

The Indian diaspora as it exists today gained momentum in modern times after the abolition of slavery in the British empire, and the subsequent introduction of the indenture system in 1834, followed in the 1920s by the kangani or maistry system. Together with the smaller-sized ‘passage’ or ‘free’ migration, these forms of migration resulted in the fact that between 1834 and 1938 about 30 million Indians left their country of origin. Most of them went to British colonies in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

Migration from India to the west is a more recent phenomenon. By the end of the 20th century, about 2 million persons from South Asian origin reside in Europe, the USA and Canada. The majority of them, about 1.26 million, live in Britain. Over the past four decades, a substantial number of studies have been conducted on the Indian migrants in Britain. Together, these studies provide us with insight into various historical and contemporary aspects of the migration pattern of different Indian communities. With regard to their region of origin in India, the Gujarati and Punjabi communities are by far the largest Indian communities in Britain, each with about 260.000 persons. The Patels constitute one of the largest groups among the Gujarati Hindus. Not surprisingly "Patel" is one of the most famous Indian surnames abroad along with the "Singh" surname.

In this paper we examine the socio-economic linkages of the Patels from Central Gujarat, also known as Patidars. It is based on fieldwork conducted in 1998 and 1999 in Central Gujarat and Greater London. After some introductory remarks about the Patidars of Central Gujarat and their patterns of migration, we highlight several aspects of the socio-economic ties between the Patels in Britain and their relatives in Central Gujarat.

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Alterity and cultural consumption amongst British Indian youths.

Dhooleka Sarhadi Raj, University of Cambridge, UK  

The new 'People of Indian Origins card' solidifies the relationship of the 'homeland' for Indian migrants. But what of the relationship of the children of migrants to this putative homeland? How can we understand the nature of Indian youths who were not born in India and have perhaps only visited once or twice in their lifetimes, yet are identified as Indian in their countries of origin? The experience of cultural difference is crucial to understanding how many people relate to 'being Indian'. This paper examines two separate aspects of the South Asian diaspora in Britain - Comedy and Hindu Activism. It uses both frames to interrogate and contest the unitary Asian subject imagined as part of the diasporic condition (i.e., one which privileges the displacement of Migrancy). Youth culture, as such, provides ample examples of new patterns of identity which claim an ongoing relationship with 'the homeland' while responding to the alterity of difference required in 'multicultural' nation states.  

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Routes of Identity: Reading India in the Invention of Minorities in Post/colonial Sri Lanka

Darini Rajasingham, International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Sri Lanka  

The paper critically examines the politics of naming diasporas in the South Asian region. It will trace the constitutive discursive structure of "diaspora", "minorities" and majoritarian nationalism in the language of the liberal modern nation states of Europe and South Asia, and its refractions. Drawing from the Sri Lankan case, I would argue that the notion of "diaspora" though it seems to critique and challenge the notion of a mono-ethnic nation-state in Europe, is still fundamentally part of the discursive construction of otherness within the liberal nation states of Europe and
South Asia that places people within a "minority culture" box, and their non-citizen kin as ethno-racial others. In this discursive logic a history of sub-continental migrations, mixing, hybridity and diversity is reconstituted and subordinated to the political discourse of modern nation-statism that also enables the current universalizing Euro-American liberal discourse on the role of post/colonial non-white immigrant or diasporic communities within the national body politic. But naming diasporas in South Asia has other effects.

Arguably all Sri Lankans are of the Indian diaspora since they are historically immigrants from India (except for a few adivasis). However, many Sri Lankans particularly in the current armed conflict have great stakes in differeing/denying this. It is dangerous to have relatively recent roots in India. Moeverover, we rarely consider ourselves to be part of an Indian diaspora. In this scenario of forgotton migrations and routes of identity there is the identifiable figure of the Indian Tamil plantation worker - brought to Sri Lanka as indentured labour in the mid-1800s, and
denied citizenship in 1948 due to post/colonial Sri Lankan state racism - primarily on the grounds that they were Indian, rather than Ceylonese/Sri lankan. These descendents of indentured Indian labour consider themselves to all interests and purposes, Sri Lankan. In this context I would hesitate to say that they belong to the Indian disapora. They are and should have all been granted Sri Lankan citizenship. Clearly issues of identity, territory, migration and citizenship rights conflate quickly in the naming of disapora, and naming diasporas has significant political and legal implications. In South Asia the question of diaspora is funadmentally tied up with
minority rights, and is somewhat different from that of diasporas in the Euro-American world - a difference that I suspect might be invisible in a post/colonial Europe concerned with its recent coloured immigrants from the colonies. This difference however relates to the problem of cultural translation which lies at the heart of the post/colonial and sub-altern studies critique of anthropology and history. The paper might reflect upon this issue.

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Culture and Economy in the Indian Diaspora: the Sikhs

Gurharpal Singh, University of Hull  

Of all the social groups of Indian origin living overseas, the Sikhs, arguably, come the closest to meeting the definition of a diaspora. In the last two decades the relationship between culture and economy within the Sikh diaspora has come under intense academic interrogation. The intertwining of community narratives, developments in the global economy and events in Punjab, it is suggested, has created a self-conscious, if somewhat essentialised (and misguided) diaspora.

This interpretation, which is becoming the new orthodoxy, lacks sound empirical foundations. It overlooks the complex differences and variations within the Sikh diasporic experience, the structural and cultural similarities with other Indian communities, and the changing nature of Sikh religious and cultural tradition. While political factors have introduced some degree of ambiguity in relation to the "homeland", the Sikh diaspora today is neither the "non-resident god of long-distance nationalism" nor the cipher for influences from Punjab and India. The construction of a self-conscious diaspora identity, it will be argued, despite assertions to the contrary, is still sometime away.

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A Ticket to Write: Reading Indian Diasporic Literatures

Sujala Singh, University of Southampton  

Much that gets categorised as "diasporic" literature is expected to share the common themes of travel, displacement, nostalgia and hybrid identities. While my paper will use the gamut of such assumptions as a useful starting point, it will focus on the dangers of curtailing a wide variety of genres, styles and narratives under the inadequate umbrella of a recognisable "Indian diasporic literature." The over-emphasis on themes runs into the danger of reading literary texts as straightforward sociological or historical documents -- what does Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses tell us about Thathcherite Britain, for instance? While such questions are crucially important, they must be asked through the rhetorical devices, points-of-view and literary shenanigans that the text participates in and is produced out of. Through the
use of examples, I explore the always complex and sometimes contradictory mediations between history and literature and think of the challenging possibilities that this opens up for reading the many varieties of Indian diasporic writing.  

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Comparative Patterns in the Hindu Diaspora

Steven Vertovec, University of Oxford  

Within today’s global population of over 755 million Hindus, over 12 million are to be found outside South Asia (India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka). Leaving aside the 3.4 million of Indonesia (mainly Bali), where Hinduism has a long history of cultural integration, there are almost 9 million Hindus scattered across the world by successive processes of migration.

Following a brief historical overview Hinduism’s transplantation and transformation in various settings, in this paper I suggest some specific patterns of change affecting Hinduism and Hindu communities throughout the world. These include: a hardening of the distinction between official (or self-proclaimed ‘orthodox’) and popular practices, tensions between unitary or universalist and specific or segmented (caste, regional, sectarian) traditions of devotion, the heightening of religious-communal self-consciousness and the growing distinction between ‘religion’ and ‘culture’. New forms of media consumption and the use of new communications technologies impact upon these trends. Each of these patterns or processes, it is concluded, play significant roles in the differential reproduction of community organization as well as personal and group identities in diverse settings throughout the diaspora.

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Indian Communities in the Antipodes: A Diverse and Economically Successful Population

Carmen Voigt-Graf, University of Sydney, Australia  

Migrants from India have been living in Australia and New Zealand for almost as long as Europeans. In the last two decades, their numbers have increased considerably as a result of the abolition of the 'White Australia Policy' in the early 1970s and three has been an upsurge in numbers of emigrants from Fiji following the coups in 1987. For migrants from India, New Zealand is by far not as important a country for settlement as Australia. Indo-Fijian twice migrants, on the other hand, have settled in large numbers in both countries. Today, the Indian population is very diverse in terms of migration history, regional origin and cultural and religious background. Most migrants of Indian origin share one characteristic that is their relative economic success. They are involved in a variety of economic activities with the professions being very prominent. A comparison of three groups of Indians in Australia, namely Punjabis, Kannadigas and Indo-Fijians traces their different success in Australia back to their pre-migration situation and migration history. Overall not many Indian migrants are business-owners and, therefore, their transnational networks are less of an economic nature and rather function as migration and support networks in Australia and New Zealand respectively. Again, differences between Punjabis, Kannadigas and Indo-Fijians are striking.


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There was a time when most engine drivers in East Africa were Indians.

By Jay Dubashi


Remember, software workers are like engine drivers. They drive the trains but have had no hand in the design of the locomotive or the permanent way.

There was a time when most engine drivers in East Africa were Indians.


But they did not take over East Africa or any other part of Africa. They were actually thrown out of East Africa and had to take shelter in England.

They are doing pretty well in England but nobody is saying that they have taken over the country. All western countries are being ruled by whites, though there are some Indians whom they allow to shine, just as the British did in India and disbursed knighthoods to their loyal subjects. But these knights did not rule India when the British left.


Let us have no illusions about what we are and what we can become. India will be a superpower not by working for Americans and helping US corporations make huge profits, but by getting our own country right. There is a great deal that remains to be done in India and that can be done only by Indians. The new computer coolies cannot do it from thousands of miles



Take the question of NRIs. We expected such a lot from them. After all, they are supposed to be our rich cousins. What have they done? They have put money in our banks because they get better returns here than in their own countries. They collect their interest regularly and visit India from time to time to send it. There are very few industries in which they have put money except through the stock market, but that is speculation. Ofcourse they make convenient noises just to show off their patriotism, especially anything to do with fundamentalism, or seen as attacking the crazy mouthings of some fanatics who are having a field day under the right-wing dispensation at the Centre, wreaking trouble across India in the name of



We have had nearly ten years of liberalisation but has it really made much difference to the life of the average Indian? The number of the poor has actually gone up since 1991.


There has been no great increase in our growth rates and Indian industry has actually suffered.


Thousands of small and medium industries have been closed down and millions of workers have been thrown out of jobs.


So we are in a peculiar situation. While millions of Indians are without jobs in India, a few hundred Indians will be going to the US and other countries of the west in search of jobs. Of course, they will earn more than what they did in India, but does that mean that India will gain? India will gain only when Indians in India have work and nobody is starving.


It is ridiculous to think that a few hundred Indians or even a few thousand Indians working abroad can change the face of India. The so-called coolies - I hate the word - who went out of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar a hundred and fifty years ago did not change the face of these two states. They are still the poorest states of India. Why should a few more collies, what other

word can I use for them, from Mumbai or Delhi change the face of Mumbai or Delhi ?


India has to be built by Indians. Indians going out of India cannot do it for us. I remain totally unimpressed by the fact the head of McKinsey & Co is an Indian or a professor in a business school in London or Harvard is an Indian.


They can contribute more to India's development by working here than working outside, just as Indian software workers in India are more useful to us than their counterpart in Microsoft or anywhere else.


India remains one of the poorest countries of the world, no matter how many Indians work for Microsoft or head petty little airlines in the US. India is so poor that the World Bank, which considers itself an authority on poverty, has been bringing out studies on Indian poverty every year. And who writes these studies? Indian economists, of course.


And where do these economists work? In American universities. These economists have, of course, become very rich by writing on Indian poverty.

(Source: Free Press Journal)

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