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Indians abroad: History, spread, remittances

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora


Source: IE


Direction: In the context of the 17th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) convention, the article highlights the history, spread and importance of the Indian diaspora.



  • The PM of India recently opened the 17th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) convention in Indore, MP, stating that Indian diaspora serve as “brand ambassadors” for the country on foreign soil.
  • The word diaspora comes from the Greek word diaspeiro, which means dispersion.
Why is the PBD convention held?
  • The convention began in 2003 under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and has grown in size and scope since 2015, when the Ministry of External Affairs made the event a biennial affair.
  • The day marks the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa on January 9, 1915.
  • It aims to project the truth about India to the rest of the world in a credible and effective manner, countering propaganda and publicise India’s development story.


Various waves of Indian migration:

  • The 1st wave (in the 19th and early 20th centuries) took place under the ‘Girmitiya’
    • The indentured labourers were shipped to countries in the east Pacific and the Caribbean islands to work on plantations in British colonies struggling as a result of labour crisis after the abolition of slavery in 1833-34.
  • Nearly 20 lakh Indians went to Singapore and Malaysia to work in farms in the 2nd wave, while professionals went to western countries and workers went to Gulf and west Asian countries in the aftermath of the oil boom during the 3rd and 4th waves.


3 categories of Indian diaspora:

  • Non-Resident Indians (NRI) are Indians who are residents of foreign countries.
  • Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) refers to a foreign citizen (except a national of Pakistan, Afghanistan Bangladesh, China, Iran, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Nepal).

Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) is a separate category carved out in 2006.

According to the MEA
PIOs refers to those An OCI card was given to a foreign national
●        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

●        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

●        Minor children of such individuals, except those who were a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh, were also eligible for OCI cards.

The PIO category was abolished in 2015 and merged with the OCI category

The size and geographical spread of the Indian diaspora:

  • According to the Parliamentary Committee on External Affairs, there were 4.7 (four point seven) crore Indians (including students also) as of December 31, 2021.
  • According to the World Migration Report prepared by the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration, India has the world’s largest emigrant population, followed by Mexico, Russia and China.


The Importance of the Indian Diaspora:

  • Remittances are a vital source of household income for low and middle-income countries like India.
  • The top five remittance recipient countries are India, China, Mexico, the Philippines, and Egypt, and according to the World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief 2022, India is on track to receive more than $100 billion in yearly remittances.
  • The active and vocal political positions of a segment of the Indian diaspora, particularly in the US and the UK, are a relatively new phenomenon.


Concerns: The Parliamentary Committee stated that conventions such as the PBD appear to exclude a large segment of the diaspora that is not wealthy (low/semi-skilled and blue-collar workers).


Conclusion: The participation and involvement in the PBD convention should be more broad-based, including vulnerable segments of the diaspora community.


Inta Links:

Bharat Ek Soch- India @ 75 – Indian Diaspora


Mains Links:

Q. ‘Indian diaspora has a decisive role to play in the politics and economy of America and European Countries’. Comment with examples. (UPSC 2020)