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Two day interdisciplinary International conference on "Human Migration in South Asia: Patterns, Development and Challenges".
(Chowgule College function on 22/2/2013)

Human Migration which simply means 'human movement' dates back from Stone Age to Modern Age, from colonization era to the present globalized world. Migration is a phenomenon which affects not only humans, but also animals, birds and many other living forms of life. How else can one explain human migration when all of us, including Adam and Eve, trace our DNA to one single tribe in Africa, and yet the world is populated today with all kinds of people with varied features?

The root cause of migration the world over is predominantly on account of two factors - the pull or flock factor, which is in quest of better economic opportunities and climate in the host country; and the push or flee factor which is due to fear of poverty, diseases, religious, social and political discrimination in one's home country. South Asia which is home to well over one fifth of the world's population, making it both the most populous and geographically the most densely populated region in the world, could not be immune to these factors which I call as P2 or F2 factors of migration.

Our country which is a fast developing nation finds itself between the under developed and the developed world; and therefore is vulnerable to both kinds of migrations - immigration and emigration. In the past India was seen as an emigration country. Today it is also seen as an immigration destination considering that it attracts migrants from across nations in Asia, Africa and even the West. For the West, India is emerging as an ideal destination for multi-national companies to out-source some of their operations. For South Asia, India is an ideal destination because of her stability, topography, diversity, security, job opportunities and education facilities.

The right to leave a country is considered absolute and therefore it is difficult to evolve an emigration policy. This is the reason why all over the world there is no such thing as emigration policy, though there are some regulations to protect the interests of the emigrating citizens.

However, the immigration policies of the receiving countries all over the world are being reshaped and remodeled by various factors like labour shortages, competition for superiority in global markets, demographical imbalances and security safeguards. Each receiving country has devised its own mechanism for evaluating immigrants in accordance with its requirements and attitude towards migrants. The receiving countries are now focusing on skilled migrants, favouring their temporary stay. Therefore India, while framing its own immigration policy, must take into account the views of other immigrating countries. Even in post Independence period, our country followed the old Emigration Act 1922 till a new one was enacted in 1983. It only goes to show that we in India have not paid considerable attention to the policy perspectives of international migration. The Indian Sub-continent, like most other countries, has seen a lot of migration which has deeply influenced its culture and contributed to its diversity. Military conquest was the main cause as well as the mode of migration in earlier days which brought Indo-Aryans, Sakas, Arabs, Afghans, Turks and Turk-Mongols (Mughals) into India. Large migration streams already occurred at the outset of South Asia's post-colonial history, when millions fled communal violence on both sides of the Indian-Pakistani border.

When we talk about Human Migration in South Asia, we talk about immigration into India by nationals from smaller South Asian countries and Indian emigration comprising of over 5 million overseas workers all over the world, 90% of these in Gulf countries and South Asia. The significance of migration is likely to increase in future as a result of the global economic and climate crises.

South Asia has become the focus of extensive migration that link cities and villages in the region to diverse places and that cuts across the concerns of governments, policy-makers, migrants themselves and their families. The patterns of migrations and their meanings vary, with motivations ranging, from migrant workers' aspirations for upward mobility, to the desire to escape from socio-economic or political distress in the countries where they live.

Another important aspect is the influx of illegal migrats which is increasingly taking centre stage in most debates in both developed and developing countries. India, which shares physical borders with neighbouring countries, is victim of such migration which has an impact on the socio-demographic profile of the region. It is to be noted that countries like U.K. and France, which are high in illegal border migration, have signed several bi-lateral readmission agreements. Can this be replicated in the sub-continent?

Migration statistics of our country lack uniformity and therefore comparability. Only a co-ordinated effort between Government, Universities and Institutions which are involved in study and monitoring of migration can provide comprehensive figures of migration in and out of our Country.

I am sure this conference will deliberate on key areas of concern of Migration cycles in South Asia - South East Asia, chiefly relating to recruitment, employment, illegal settlements, integration, trafficking, terrorism and loss of productive population. Another interesting area of study will be to quantify the economic contributions of migrants to their respective societies. This will give us an idea of what constitute the lives of the migrants and where they look to us for support.

By the end of next two days you will have enough material and information so as to decipher the causes and consequences of the human migration in South Asia, and come out with some positive thinking and concrete suggestions which will impact our tomorrow and hopefully impact the new migration policy of our country.

The world is more malleable than you think; waiting for you to hammer it into shape.