Views that never cease

Punjabis bitten by the foreign bug - Gobind Thukral

It for long that Punjabis were struck by the lure of the foreign lands. In early 20th century and even in the last quarter the 19th century, the Punjabis begin seeking work outside India. Young men facing lack of opportunities and  the lure of good earnings, started moving to southeast Asia and Africa ;  south Africa, Malaysia,  and other close by countries  and even to China . Come World War 1 and, Punjabi soldieries   who participated in large numbers   brought tales of prosperity. While thousands were killed, some made their homes there and this gave ideas to their near and dear ones. This meant now moving to pacific coast also. California and British Columbia were the places to make good living, though hard in lumber industry.

They saw and experienced new freedom and its denial even in those countries and back home inspired them to fully participation in country’s freedom struggle. We have those epic stories of Kamagata Maru and the Ghadar movement.  But this heroic story   also meant moving to these countries even if the struggle was grim.

Look into the new matrimonial columns, the lure for foreign bridegrooms occupies prominent place. Punjabis are moving to all kinds of courtiers after spending lakhs of rupees   and even getting cheated by the greedy travel agents. Thousands of reports with the police and cases in courts are a testimony of this repeated deceitful business.

A recent study by the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), Chandigarh, and Institute National d’Études Démographiques, Paris reveals new facts about this migration.  Canada may be the dream country to settle in, but maximum Punjabi emigration; 28% is to United Arab Emirates. It is here that work brings good money as compared to the joblessness aback home.  A good part of prosperity   which one sees around in rural Punjab is because of money comes from these foreign lands.

This larger sample survey on migration with more than 10,000 households and 54,000 people covered shows that more than 1 in 10 of the households in Punjab reported at least one current international out-migrant. More than 24% households desired to move to Canada followed by more than 15% to the UAE, and more than 13% to the US. But actually emigration to the UAE tops, followed by Canada with 12% and Italy 11%.

The choice of adopted countries shows the class bias between upper and lower sections. The UAE is popular with rural folk with 30%.  These people largely from the Majha region are Hindus, the Scheduled Castes, those educated up to middle school, the landless, and those with the lowest standard of living. Canada is the preferred choice of Malwa region people, Sikhs, general castes, agricultural families owning at least 10 acres, and the super rich.  Emigration to Canada increases with the improvement in education. Doaba households are most likely to send a member abroad, while the Malwa households are least likely. Sharp difference is observed in the percentage of Sikh and Hindu households with at least a current international out-migrant.

An overwhelming share of the households like 73% has only one emigrant, while 27% have more than one .The rural areas are more likely to have more than one emigrant from a single household. A higher proportion of Malwa households, 23% send multiple members abroad.  Now even affluent families contribute more to the rush.

Women emigration is a little more than 16% of the total current international out-migrants.  And, their emigration rate of 10 per 1,000 is much lower than men’s 46 per 1,000.  Aswini Kumar Nanda, who supervised the survey asserts, “Women always have been emigrating as family dependants, but their increasing independent emigration is a modern phenomenon.”  Maximum women are going to Canada, followed by the US and Australia. Almost 21% are going for work, 19% for education and the maximum 29% for family union or marriage. Close to 80% are from rural areas, more than 40% from Doaba, and more than 80% are Sikh. The hands of the police are full of the cases where young brides are cheated into marriage that ends courts cases and divorces.

The desire for an NRI groom is most among the prosperous households as defined by standard of living or the size of agricultural land. If they had a chance to accept an NRI (non-resident Indian) match for daughter, only 17 households go for that as fear of being cheated dominates.

The Sikh, Malwa, and woman-headed households prefer to marry off a daughter abroad, for 50% believe that it is the guarantee to her better future, 48% think she’ll have a comfortable life, 47% assume she’d be more prosperous, and 31% are lured by foreign social security provisions.  There is clearly an economic motivation in seeking cross-border marriage ties for girls or even in case of boys in Punjab. It helps other members to move abroad through new ties. If they had a chance to accept a non-resident Indian match for daughter, 17 % households would go for it. Almost 14% of the households hunting for NRI groom said having relatives and members of the community abroad made matchmaking easy and reliable.









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