Buoyed by the success stories of its ‘Discover Your Roots’ programme, the Uttar Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (UPTDC) has perked up its online search.
The search process, meant for descendants of indentured labourers settled abroad to enable them to find their roots, has gone completely digital as opposed to earlier when, for most parts, it was manual.
In 19th century and early 20th century, a large number of people from Uttar Pradesh were moved, against their will, by the imperial government to its colonies like South Africa, West Indies, Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad etc.
The UP tourism had conceptualised the programme in 2003 and rolled it out in 2007. Since then the department has been receiving a large number of queries from the descendants of the original emigrants.
Till now, 22 people traced their roots and five have actually visited their respective relatives/villages. For instance Ram Saran Autar, citizen of South Africa, traced his routes in Basti and visited the ancestral village and family.
“We have developed a new search engine based tool, where a descendant has to fill in details (in an online format) of the original emigrant and then click ‘search’. Earlier, the search system was manual and only the form filling was online. After this, we used to search the related documents,” said Ratindra Pandey, the manager of the emigrant’s search programme.
So how does the online system work? The website says: “A record of almost 30,540 persons who were taken to different colonies between 1877 and 1896 has been digitised and put online.” In all, 1.5 lakh people were taken to these colonies.
UP tourism charges $150 online or through a cheque from an applicant for the search. Once a descendant traces roots online, the department sends a person to do physical verification so that once the certainty of the root was established, the descendant may visit the original place of the emigrant and meet relatives.
In the online search engine, an applicant has to fill in details like the related emigrant’s name, father’s name, sex and age at the time of emigration.
After this, he would get to select the year in which the emigrant sailed (from 1877 to 1896), name of the ship from the drop-down menu, colony of immigration, occupation etc.
Most of the emigrants who went, grew to a large population in their respective countries and prospered economically, socially and politically. However, they retained a large part of their eastern UP culture.