ABSTRACT

The contribution of overseas Indians (Punjabis), especially that of Sikh emigrants, in the transformation of the socio-economic life of rural Punjab is significant and multifarious. With close to a century’s worth of migration experience, the Sikh emigrants have not only maintained, but also become more proactive by playing the role of a catalyst in the improvement of their ancestral lands. Through adopting multiple renewed channels of economic interventions, contemporary rural Punjab has consequently been greatly impacted by the continuous involvement of the overseas emigrants. The impact was visible and discernible in the rural areas of the state of India in terms of the general lifestyle of the populace and the organisation of social, economic, agricultural, business and even political activities (Brar and Gill 2001). Over the decades, the developmental role of emigrant connection has been constantly shaped by the changing nature of emigration. The amount of private remittances received by India increased substantially over a short period from US$15.8 billion in 2001-2002 to US$55.9 billion in 2010-2011 (MOIA 2010/2011). The government of India gradually accorded higher priority to the overseas community in terms of policies, programmes and various development initiatives. The state government adopted various ways and means to promote contribution efforts after recognising the actual potential contributions of the diasporic factor in the process of rural development. A policy framework consisting of various rules and regulations to facilitate the movement of persons, investable funds, goods, services and technology was implemented. That being said, the emigrants-oriented development intensity in the state varied across the regions, sub-regions and clusters of villages. It also varied according to the duration, nature and destination of emigration, and the class and caste basis at the native villages. Consequently, the region witnessed higher levels of varied private investments by the emigrants, either directly or in collaboration with their family members from their ancestral villages in agricultural and allied activities, etc. Private remittances from abroad had thus contributed considerably to the income and consumption standards of the households (Kaur et al. 2011). Evidently, the villages connected with members abroad had presented different lifestyles and cultures, unlike those that did not have these connections.