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Dr. Wilfred M. Mesquita, MD (Bom); DGO; DFP
Commissioner for NRI Affairs
Former Minister, Govt. of Goa.

From Stone Age to Modern Age, from colonized to globalized world, immigration has been a phenomenon by itself. Goans have been migrating before, during and after colonial times. Goans traded in East Africa in the 10th century which shows that they were truly seafarers and intercontinental movers. Later on, during Portuguese colonial rule, Christian Goans became a part of the Portuguese seafaring tradition. It is interesting to note that as far back as 1784, One hundred fifty Goans soldiers had reached Macau to defend it. The majority of Goan immigrants have originated from the Old Conquests (Bardez, Tiswadi, Salcete and Mormugao). Although the old conquests were densely populated, the Portuguese did not do anything to generate employment. As a result, a large section of the population was forced to migrate. In the 1930's seventy thousand Goans had migrated from Goa out of which 2/3rd settled in British India. In 1960, 1/6th of the total population of 6 lakhs was immigrant. Goa, a small territory has a vast international Diaspora and it is a matter of record that Goans were never used as indentured labour, unlike Indians in British India.

Migration trends according to destination or changing patterns can be illustrated in the following order:

  1. Most of the Goans emigrated to the neighbouring Indian states (Goa being a Portuguese colony, any migration to India was considered international), like Pune, Dharwad, Calcutta, Karachi and Mumbai in particular, where Goans began working in the British Naval fleet between 1797 and 1813.

  2. From the last decades of the 19th century to the early decades of the 20th century, Goans began emigrating to Portuguese and British Colonies in East Africa. They were seeking their livelihood in distant lands as workers in search of opportunities in various fields. The rich cultural syncretism gave Goans a more inclusive identity which facilitated their adaptation and integration into new and different cultures of the host countries. Christian Goans had a higher geographical and occupational mobility because of their cultural openness and liberal attitude, which helped easy adaptability to any environment. Migrating Goans left an impact of their presence wherever they went having served as unofficial ambassadors of an inclusive and unique culture. Also, their honesty and hard work stood them in good stead making them preferred employees. Most Goan emigrants always felt connected to their original identity, culture and heritage which prompted them to invest at home, primarily in education and real estate. However, the decision of the Portuguese Government in the 1920s to impose Immigration Tax and Tax on their properties forced many Goan emigrants to sell their ancestral properties in Goa and to settle in British India (Mumbai, Calcutta, and Karachi).

  3. In the mid 60's in the wake of an oil boom in West Asia & Gulf, began a steady outflow of semi skilled and skilled labour force.

  4. This was followed by outflow of entrepreneurs, store owners, professionally employed businessmen to European countries primarily to U.K. A little later, professionals and educated elite began seeking economical betterment in more advanced countries in the world.

Goa Migration Survey (GMS) conducted in the year 2008 shows that 12% households had an emigrant living abroad and another 4% were return emigrants. Salcete Taluka accounts for 50% of emigrant households, followed by Bardez and Tiswadi Talukas with 15% each. Christians account for 74% of emigrants.

Goan Diaspora is spread over 50 countries of the world:
56% of Goan emigrants live in Gulf region
13% of Goan emigrants live in Europe
11% of Goan emigrants live in South & South East Asia
10% of Goan emigrants live in North America
7% of Goan emigrants are working aboard ships.

62% of emigrants leave Goa at the prime working ages between 20-39 years. Among the percentage of emigrants, females are better educated than males; 36% of female emigrants are graduates compared to just 26% of the male emigrants.

Though there are no precise estimates about the amount of remittances Goa receives, but a rough estimate places it at around Rupees 600 crores ($ 100 Million) which is roughly around 4% of GDP (Goa's domestic product). It is negligible compared to Kerala's: nearly 30 billion dollars, making that state the largest recipient of foreign remittances. The investments made in industry as well as all other services by the Goan Diaspora abroad are not very significant compared to the investments that come from the rest of the country. It is estimated that nearly 50-60 % of the investment in real estate comes from the rest of the country, almost all non-Goans. Goa's current economic growth rate is 9 - 10% out of which only about 1.5% is from the money which comes from abroad. However, remittances by the Goan Diaspora have a significant effect on the economy. GMS shows that migrant households enjoy a high level of consumption of consumer durables compared to the non-migrant households. Most households, i.e. 82%, used the remittances for daily subsistence. Nearly a third of the households used it for educational purposes. More than a quarter of the households deposited it in banks. 1/5 of remittances are used for building houses and purchasing land.

Of late, a national trend of overseas Indians returning home to seek their roots and explore new avenues and sectors for mutually beneficial relationship from investment to transfer of skills and technology, to outright philanthropy and charitable works is very much visible, because of the enormous opportunities that India offers in the last decade, since the Indian economy has opened up, giving rise to new range of opportunities for the emerging generation. Goans cannot be immune to this national trend and therefore there is a need for greater interaction and collaboration between the Goan Diaspora and the Government of Goa, more so because the connection of Goans to the motherland is their nostalgia for Goa, and their longing for Goa. It can be said that, it is easy to remove a Goan from Goa, but not Goa from a Goan.

The social cost of emigration is one factor which is totally forgotten in any discourse on migration. It is assuming severe dimensions and should form an integral component of the migration management plan. According to Mr. Irudaya Raja, the migration expert from Centre for Development Studies (CDS), the pattern of response received from families back home is "we don't want our children to become migrants and stay away from their families". The women left behind, feel the burden of:

  1. Added responsibility at home.
  2. Rearing of children single handed
  3. Social isolation and loneliness.

Migration has enhanced the economic status of family members. The children of migrant workers may be having better food and having possessions which their peers do not have. But they feel deprived of love, affection and guidance they need to receive from their parents, more so when both are abroad. This can lead to psychological complications among them.

The stress and agonies of the wives, the plight of the parents who are deprived of love and care and in general the ordeals of their family members back home, are the hidden issues concerning the social costs of migration and the silent sacrifices of non-resident Indians.

The NRI Cell set up in 2006 as a separate entity headed by the Commissioner for NRI Affairs with rank and status of a Cabinet Minister, has been regularly interacting with the Overseas Goans on a sustained basis to identify areas of mutual concern, to formulate appropriate policies and programmes for their benefit and to strengthen the emotional bonds by recognizing and celebrating their achievements. The Global Goans website launched in 2006, provides advisory services, highlights Government policies, promotes investment and disseminates vital information to the Goan Diaspora across the world. The web site is now being revamped.

A State Level Committee headed by the Commissioner redresses the grievances of non-resident Goans in property matters and other related issues, mostly to the satisfaction of the affected NRG (Non Resident Goan). The Goa Buildings (Lease, Rent and Eviction) Control Act, 1968 has been amended so as to protect the property rights of NRIs residing outside India, who are either citizens of India or Persons of Indian Origin, to enable them to recover possession of their bona fide properties when the same are required for their own occupation or for the occupation of any member of their family. The Commissioner's Office has also constituted NRG Emergency Repatriation Fund to take care of economically weaker section of Goans who are employed in skilled, semi skilled and unskilled jobs abroad, particularly in Gulf countries, in times of distress, including loss of jobs, accident or sudden illness and untimely death. This department also looks after all other grievances faced by Indian (Goan) workers abroad, in particular problems faced by emigrating Goans because of illegal / fake recruiting agents.

A number of schemes formulated by the Government of India, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, have been implemented. These include scheme for Skill up-gradation and Pre-departure orientation programme for emigrant workers aspiring for gainful employment in overseas countries and Scholarship Scheme for Goan Diaspora children intending to pursue higher and technical education in professional and general courses in institutions affiliated to Goa University or Goa Board of Technical Education. The "Know Goa Programme" formulated on the lines of the "Know India Programme" has provided opportunity for Goan Diaspora youth who are not Indian nationals to discover their roots in Goa, and share their thoughts, perceptions about the country of their domicile and the country of their origin.

After repeated pleadings, the cases of Goans born abroad before December 19, 1961 (Liberation Day), who faced difficulties in getting Indian citizenship, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of Goa, by their letter to the Office of Commissioner NRI, dated 01/02/2003, Ref. No. 26030/13/2012/IC.I, has agreed to grant their applications. The government of India has also agreed to issue Overseas Citizen of India Cards in Mumbai in the time their office of FFRO is ready to issue them from Goa by April 1, 2013. Goa has three kinds of emigrants; economic migrants, family migrants and students. Inability to find employment was the major cause of migration. Migration was regarded as a natural course and the locals were encouraged to take advantage of it at the very first opportunity for their economic survival. Today, though there are economic opportunities at home, which have not always been favourable or of choice, people tend to emigrate to improve their own lifestyle and that of their relatives. The majority of the Goans belonging to this group are emigrants in Gulf, most of who return back and start their own investment in Goa. A considerable number tend to settle in the West or elsewhere in the world. Most of the family emigrants fall in the group of family settlers. Lack of opportunities to qualified youth has led to widespread emigration of young Goans. As compared to the past, only a small group of students leave the shores of Goa because majority of them get employed within India. The outflow of Goans student has also come to minimum considering the tremendous progress done in the field of education. Those students leaving to countries like the U.K, U.S.A. and Australia for specialized education are by and large very few and normally do not return back home.

On the other hand it is estimated that over 1/3 of the present population of Goa comprises of immigrants. This same growth could be seen in the 1st decade itself after liberation of Goa. This increased patter of large scale immigration continued up to 1980. From then on, decade after decade immigration remained static at around 15%. The immigration after the 70's was primarily due to the influx of semi skilled labour force spurred on by the building boom in the state besides other labour requirements practically in each and every sector. Therefore, it is very clear that the huge increase in Goa's population is because of the immigration taking place. This is creating a heavy demand on all our natural resources which cannot meet with infrastructural and all other requirements of people living in Goa, primarily because of Goa's tiny size.

This immigration which is taking place at an alarming rate together with emigration of Goans is causing a great damage to Goa's identity and culture. What Goa urgently needs is a mechanism to hold back Goans in Goa and incentivize those who have left to come back home. It is easier said than done, but earnest attempts have to be made in this direction by all concerned. The Government of Goa, under the leadership of Chief Minister Shri Manohar Parrikar, is working in this direction.