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Insights into Editorial: The diaspora and disasters
Importance of Diaspora to India:
The Indian Diaspora is a generic term to describe the people who migrated from territories that are currently within the borders of the Republic of India. It also refers to their descendants.
The Diaspora is currently estimated to number over twenty million, composed of “NRIs” (Indian citizens not residing in India) and “PIOs” (Persons of Indian Origin who have acquired the citizenship of some other country).
The Diaspora covers practically every part of the world. It numbers more than a million each in eleven countries, while as many as twenty-two countries have concentrations of at least a hundred thousand ethnic Indians.
Indian Diaspora played a crucial role in rehabilitation of Kerala Floods:
There is Department of Non-Resident Keralite Affairs, headed by the Chief Minister.
Department of Non-Resident Keralite Affairs looks at the welfare of the 3.4 million migrants globally, in addition to nearly 2 million internal migrants within India. Malayalis, who moved from Kerala permanently with their family and live within the country or abroad number around 2 to 3 million, since the formation of the State in 1956.
Kerala floods displaced over a million people. It directly affected over a sixth of the state’s total population.
The losses are calculated to be more than the state’s annual plan. In 2017-18, Kerala’s annual plan outlay was Rs. 26,500 Cr. The contributions to Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund crossed more than Rs. 1,680 Cr.
Remittances received in Kerala accounted for approximately Rs. 85,000 Cr in one single year.
Union Minister KJ Alphons has announced that Indian diaspora residing in China’s Shanghai has contributed Rs. 32.13 lakh to the Chief Minister’s distress relief fund for Kerala floods.
Kerala Migrants data:
According to the KMS (Kerala Migration Survey) 2018, there are over 2.1 million Malayali emigrants globally and 1.3 million return migrants.
The Department of Non-Resident Keralite Affairs, headed by the Chief Minister of Kerala, looks after the welfare of the 3.4 million migrants globally, in addition to the nearly 2 million internal migrants within India.
These are Keralites who have direct connections to their households — fathers, mothers, spouses, and, in some cases, elderly children.
Role played by the Diaspora at the time of Disaster Response:
In a globalised world, the international dimensions of disaster response and recovery, and the significant policy role played by the diaspora can be critical.
For example, after the earthquake in 2010 in Haiti, the Haitian diaspora in the U.S. served as a conduit for doctors, nurses, engineers, educators, advisers and reconstruction planners.
Haitian-Americans continue to be vital in long-term recovery — as supplies, remittances, sharing human and financial resources, lobbying governments, international organisations and corporations for disaster relief and redevelopment funding, and in facilitating eased travel restrictions.
In Nepal, after the 2015 earthquake, the Non-Resident Nepali Association collected $2.69 million, mobilised over 300 volunteers including doctors and nurses, and pledged to rebuild 1,000 disaster resilient houses.
In the Tsunami in South Asia (2004) and the Pakistan earthquake (2005), diaspora and migrant remittances flowed generously, demonstrating the counter cyclical nature of remittances.
In Kerala, the migrant community and diaspora moved swiftly to organise an Internet-driven response.
Diaspora can play an important role in India’s quest to be a knowledge power and a developed country.
By sharing and re-sharing vital information on affected regions and people, supplies, and precautionary measures (on social media platforms), Diaspora were instrumental in expanding the flow of information that would later be used by politicians, private and military rescue operations, and relief workers.
India must follow a robust and flexible policy in order to leverage the strengths of Diaspora and minimize the possibilities of any negative fallout.
As the diaspora is one of the greatest assets of Kerala, communities should improve relations with diaspora groups. Return migrants should also act as liaison agents.
Diaspora communities will also inevitably shape political and economic responses to a disaster.
The linking of social capital between diaspora, civil society organisations, advocacy groups and government institutions, although necessary during rehabilitation, is bound to lead to unanticipated and undesirable outcomes.
t least temporarily, the State may witness higher rates of emigration among the common people as they try to mitigate losses caused by the floods.
For example, the KMS shows that migrants use over 40% of their remittances in purchasing land, construction and repayment of mortgage debt.
Finally, there is a need to investigate the relationship between rehabilitation and migration further.
To conclude, the communication and transportation revolution and the global reach of media are creating a major change in the nature of relationship between the Diasporas and their country of origin.