Indian Diaspora


    In News

    • Recently, the Prime Minister of India inaugurated the 17th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention.

    About Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD)

    • Origin:
      • To mark this day, the tradition of celebrating Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) started in 2003. 
      • 1st PBD Convention was organized on 9 January 2003 to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community to the development of India.
      • Since 2015, under a revised format, PBD Convention has been organized once every 2 years (biennial).
    • Significance:
      • 9 January commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to India in 1915. 
      • It is celebrated grandly to strengthen the engagement of the Government of India with the overseas Indian community.
    • Concerns with Celebrations:
      • Low/semi-skilled and blue collar workers may not find a place or feel comfortable to participate in the said celebration as the general profile of participants is seen to be of very high level. 
      • The participation and involvement should be more broad-based, accommodating the vulnerable sections of the diaspora community too.
    • Themes:
      • 17th PBD- “Diaspora: Reliable Partners for India’s Progress in Amrit Kaal”.
      • 16th PBD- “Contributing to Atma Nirbhar Bharat ”.

    Indian Diaspora

    • Meaning:
      • The term diaspora traces its roots to the Greek diaspeiro, which means dispersion.
    • Historical Background:
      • The Indian diaspora has grown manifold since the first batch of Indians were taken to counties in the east pacific and the Caribbean islands under the ‘Girmitiya’ arrangement as indentured labourers.
      • The 19th and early 20th centuries saw thousands of Indians shipped to those countries to work on plantations in British colonies, which were reeling under a labour crisis due to the abolition of slavery in 1833-34.
      • 2023 marks the 150th year of the first such journey of Indians to Suriname.
      • As part of the second wave of migration, nearly 20 lakh Indians went to Singapore and Malaysia to work in farms. 
      • The third and fourth wave saw professionals heading to western countries and workers going to the Gulf and west Asian countries in the wake of the oil boom.


    Various Classifications

    • Non-Resident Indians (NRI): 
      • NRIs are Indians who are residents of foreign countries.
      • To qualify as a resident Indian, an individual should have spent 182 days or more of a financial year in India, or stayed in India for 60 days or more in the year and for a period of 365 days or more in the 4 years preceding the relevant financial year
    • Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs): 
      • The PIO category was abolished in 2015 and merged with the OCI category. 
      • However, existing PIO cards are valid till December 31, 2023, by which the holders of these cards have to obtain OCI cards.
      • PIO refers to a foreign citizen (except a national of Pakistan, Afghanistan Bangladesh, China, Iran, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Nepal) 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.
    • Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs): 
      • A separate category of OCI was carved out in 2006. 
      • An OCI card was given to a foreign national 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.
    • Numbers:
      • As on December 31, 2021, there were 4.7 crore Indians living overseas. 
      • The number includes NRIs, PIOs, OCIs, and students. Excluding students, the number stands at 3.22 crore, including 1.87 crore PIOs and 1.35 crore NRIs.
      • According to the World Migration Report, prepared by the International Organisation for Migration under the United Nations, India has the largest emigrant population in the world, making it the top origin country globally, followed by Mexico, Russian and China.
    • Geographical spread:
      • The geographical spread of the Indian diaspora is vast. 
      • The countries with over 10 lakh overseas Indians include United States of America (44 lakh), United Kingdom (17.6 lakh), United Arab Emirates (34 lakh), Sri Lanka (16 lakh), South Africa (15.6 lakh), Saudi Arabia (26 lakh), Myanmar (20 lakh), Malaysia (29.8 lakh), Kuwait (10.2 lakh) and Canada (16.8 lakh).
    • Remittances:
      • As per the latest World Bank Migration and Development Brief 2022, “For the first time a single country, India, is on track to receive more than $100 billion in yearly remittances.”
      • The World Migration Report notes that India, China, Mexico, the Philippines and Egypt are (in descending order) among the top five remittance recipient countries, “although India and China were well above the rest”. 
    • Involvement in politics:
      • The vocal political positions taken by a section of the Indian diaspora, particularly in the US and the UK, is a fairly recent phenomenon. 
        • For instance, the Hindu American Foundation, a Hindu advocacy group based in the US, was set up in 2003, the same year the Pravasi Bharatiya Convention was launched. 
      • Many prominent overseas Indians play an active role in organising global meetings.


    • Indians living overseas are “brand ambassadors” of the country on foreign soil.
    • Overseas Indians can project the truth about India to the world in a credible and effective manner and counter “propaganda”.

    Source: IE