Migration, Diaspora and Nation Building: Opportunities and Challenges

Published Date:   Saturday, Mar 10, 2018

Migration, Diaspora and Nation Building: Opportunities and Challenges


An international conference has been organized on ‘Migration, Diaspora and Nation Building: Opportunities and Challenges’ on March 7-8, 2018 held at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. The conference was organized by UGC-HRDC, Jamia Millia Islamia sponsored by Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) and India Centre for Migration (ICM).The two-day conference was interactive, informative, and insightful in understanding the issues, trends and future prospects of the Indian migration, Diaspora and Nation-building.

The welcome address and introduction of the conference delivered by Prof. Anisur Rahman, Conference Convenor, Director- UGC-HRDC, JMI. Prof.. Rahman emphasised the role and significance of Migration and Diaspora in the nation-building. He highlighted the opportunities and challenges before the migration of labour, skilled workers, female workers and all forms of Prof.essional workers and entrepreneurs.  Dr Upendra Choudhury, Director, ICSSR who was the Guest of honour  talked about the relevance of Migration and Diaspora . He outlined the key role of ICSSR in the research and development field in India.

The key-note address was delivered by Prof..  Kavita Sharma, President, South Asian University, New Delhi. She discussed the historical and contemporary context of Indian Migration and Diaspora. She gave the broader outline of the trends and characteristics of the labour migration in colonial period. During this era, the labour migration took place from India to Fiji, Surinam, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Mauritius under indentured system. The recruitment of the workers was done by agents engaged by employers under contract work arrangement. The migrant labourers were paid meagre wages and they had to work under poor working conditions, long hours and with no social security benefits and safety provision. They were exploited, subjugated and oppressed by employers in foreign land. They faced severe poverty, hunger and ignorance at host-land. During the post-colonial phase, the trend of migration was considered as ‘elite migration’ because they emigrated towards North America and some of the European countries mainly. The emigration was taken place for the higher education, Prof.essional training and business establishment. The emigrants are skilled workers and Prof.essionals and thus they are little economically reliant and self-dependent. During 1970s, the oil boom incident has resulted as the labour migration from South Asia to Gulf regions. It has been considered as third phase of Indian migration. During this period, the labour migrants were emigrated for low skilled and low paid jobs to GCC countries which resulted in the formation of Indian diaspora communities in the gulf countries. The important feature of labour migrants in Gulf region is remittances-gained from workers back home. The remittances from gulf regions is one of the large share of total remittances sent by migrant workers and Prof.essionals from abroad. Furthermore, she has discussed the post-1990s emigration phase and the role of globalization, privatization and internationalization. During this phase, many educated, trained and skilled workers and Prof.essionals emigrated from India to abroad mainly developed countries such as USA, UK, Canada, Australia and Germany and so on. A significant number of technocrats, computer scientists and Prof.essionals are dominant in the world in the age of technology and global economy. In fact, the Silicon Valley has one third share of Indian technocrats and Prof.essionals in the USA. In current phase of globalization, the Indian Diaspora are active, vocal and effective among all other Diaspora communities in the world. She has also analysed the current challenges of globalization such as environment, Brexit and changing VISA policy rules and their effects on migration and Indian Diaspora communities.

Delivering the inaugural address, Dr Dnayaneshwar Mulay, Secretary Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India highlighted the complexity of Diaspora as a phenomenon and growing number of migrants and diaspora communities in the world over.  He discussed the role of government of India in addressing issues of low wages, poor working conditions, untimely wages, unemployment, low social security benefits, retrenchment, repatriation and return migration and so on.  He emphasised the importance of migration and diplomacy between the country of origin and destination. There is need to have mutual trust and relationships between sending and receiving countries. He gave the broader outline of the government’s schemes, programmes and training programmes for the welfare of the labour migrants.

Prof.. Talat Ahmad, Vice Chancellor, Jamia  Millia Islamia gave presidential remarks. He talked about the relevance of the conference and importance of the theme in current phase of globalization. He congratulated organiser Prof.. Anisur  Rahman, and his entire team for organizing a two-day international conference. Finally, a formal vote of thanks was given by Dr Azra Khursheed, UGC-HRDC, JMI.

In continuation of this, the plenary session was started from 12:00 Noon to 01:30 pm at the same venue in Jamia MilliaIslamia. The plenary session was chaired by Prof. R L Hangloo, Vice Chancellor, University of Allahabad.The panellists of the session were Prof. Binod Khadria, Zakir Hussain Centre for Educational Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He introduced and discussed the concept of  ‘de-diasporization’ in his presentation. In the discussion, he talked about the inter-linkages between brain gain, globalization, international market and visa policy. He further discussed the emerging issues of Diaspora inclusive of inter-diaspora cooperation through south-south cooperation, dual citizenship for STEM and liberal visa rules. He also analysed the preconditions of smooth and liberal Diaspora cooperation are: environment safety and security, ‘best before dates’ in all visa policies, correct and reliable migration statistics.

The other panellist was Prof. Irudaya Rajan, Centre for Development Studies, Kerala. He highlighted the issues and challenges of labour migrants in gulf countries. He talked about the challenges of evidence-based migration statistics. He emphasized the importance of correct numbers of migrants and related statistics in India. Indian government and its relevant ministry and agencies should gather data and statistics related to labour migration. In his argument, he mentioned the significance of statistics for the development welfare measures of labour migrants specifically. Secondly, he emphasized over the need of the migration and diaspora policy. He argued that India should have clear, transparent and reliable migration policy so as to promote and secure labour migration from India.  He said there is need for more research in the area of Diaspora philanthropy, investment, charity, diaspora organization and so on. He also discussed about role of diaspora participation in Indian politics and the Diaspora funding to the political parties. He also said that there is need for research on “failed” or “unsuccessful diaspora” and migrants.

The next panellist, Dr Md Mizanur Rahman, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Brunei presented his research work on migration and entrepreneurship in the Gulf region with special focus on Saudi Arabia. He discussed the development in migration and diaspora and how they become successful diaspora in host-country. He brought out several successful stories of emerging entrepreneurs who immigrated to Saudi Arabia as migrant workers, who gradually started their own small business and entrepreneurial activities. He discussed that the labour migration has affected many aspects of the lives of migrants and their receiving countries in the Gulf. One of the most visible but often neglected migration outcomes is the development of migrant operated businesses across the Gulf states. Many of these businesses are owned and run by migrants in collaboration with Kafeels (sponsors). He analysed the experiences of ordinary migrant workers who turned to entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia. With the pictorial presentation, he tried to show the dwelling and working challenges of South Asian labour migrants in Saudi Arabia. He explored the dynamics of the Gulf migration by indentifying the transition from migrant workers to migrant entrepreneurand explaining the making of migrant entrepreneurship within the temporary migration process.

This two-day conference had 24 technical sessions and around 200 research papers. At the end of the second day, the valedictory session was held at Seminar Hall, Ist Floor, India Arab Cultural Centre, Jamia MilliaIslamia. The keynote address was delivered by Prof. R K Jain, Distinguished Anthropologist, Formerly served at CSSS, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He discussed his lived experiences at Malaysia and discussed the issues of labour migration to the colonial era to current phase. Finally, Prof. Anisur Rahman gave formal vote of thanks to all the distinguished panellists, academicians, eminent scholars and participants who have graced the conference with their ideas, field-experiences and insightful knowledge on the Migration and Diaspora issues.


Report by Monika Bisht, PhD Scholar, National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, 17-B, Sri Aurobindo Marg, Opposite Adchini, New Delhi, Pin Code-110016, India. Email address: [email protected]


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