Ahmedabad, July 2 (IANS) In Gujarat, everyone likes everything ‘foreign’. Our dream is to eventually settle in the West and earn dollars.
Even my younger brother is in America. We come from a little village named Khambhalia in Devbhoomi Dwarka district. We are traditionally into farming and yet we mortgaged our ancestral land to send my brother to America to pursue medicine. The entire village celebrated when one of its sons shifted to America.
This is not a new story in my state that loves America to the extent that even our buildings are named ‘New York Tower’ or ‘Silicon Valley’! Walls on the streets have huge advertisements on how to crack USA or Canada WITHOUT taking any exams!
The desire to seek a better life abroad has long enticed individuals from various parts of the world. Gujarat is no exception. Known for its people endowed with an enterprising spirit and business acumen, Gujarat has seen a significant rise in migration to countries such as the United States and Canada.
This migration can be categorised into three distinct phases. The first wave began in the mid-60s, with highly educated professionals such as doctors and engineers seeking opportunities in the US through legal means. This marked the onset of the brain drain phenomenon, wherein talented individuals left their homeland in search of better prospects.
The second phase witnessed the migration of extended families who were sponsored by their relatives already settled abroad. And in the latest wave, individuals from all classes, particularly the Patidars, have been moving to the West, taking up jobs that might be considered menial in their homeland but provide better economic prospects overseas.
Can you imagine an entire village crazy about the American dream? An example is Dingucha village, located near Ahmedabad, which has come to epitomise the strong desire for migration prevailing among the Gujaratis.
With a population of 3,284 people, Dingucha has seen a significant number of its residents pursuing opportunities in the US or Canada. So much so, that in Dingucha, it is believed that if a child is born in the village, it is his or her destiny to eventually migrate to America. Failure to do so may result in difficulties in finding a suitable partner for marriage.
This is also the village whose people died while crossing the Canadian border illegally just because they wanted to fulfil their American dream. Cases of illegal immigration and people becoming victims of fraud by agents are commonplace in Gujarat.
Economic factors play an important role in motivating Gujaratis to leave their homeland. One of the driving forces is the prospect of significantly higher earnings in foreign countries.
For example, housekeeping jobs in hotels in the US can fetch individuals as much as $150 per day, with additional tips of $30-40 from guests. When it is converted to the Indian currency, it amounts to a staggering Rs 14,000 per day, a figure that far surpasses the monthly income of the vast majority of Indians.
Economic opportunities, coupled with the allure of a better standard of living, make foreign shores an attractive prospect for many Gujaratis.
Statistical data also sheds light on the extent of Gujarati migration. According to the 2019 five-year ACS Census Data, approximately 20 per cent of all Indians in the United States have their roots in Gujarat. Out of the 4,240,466 Indians residing in the United States, approximately 848,093 are Gujaratis. Additionally, recent statistics from Canada indicates that 92,005 individuals speak Gujarati at home.
The entrepreneurial spirit of the Gujaratis is another factor contributing to their success abroad. Their ability to adapt to various conditions and excel in business ventures has allowed them to thrive in foreign countries.
Gujaratis are known for their proficiency in running motels, convenience stores, and diamond businesses not only in the US, but also in several European and African nations.
While the allure of foreign shores may be appealing, it is important to consider the impact of this migration on the local community in Gujarat. As more individuals leave their homeland, there is a potential loss of talent and expertise that could have contributed to the growth and development of the state.