Ahead of next year’s Centennial of the Abolition of Indian Indentureship, descendants of the country’s Girmitiya labourers expressed keenness on Saturday in contributing to the development process of their ancestral Madhya Pradesh in a big way.
As the Indian Diaspora Council (IDC) is gearing up to commemorate the global event in March 2017, an influential member of the community, whose forefathers left India in the middle and late 19th century to serve as labourers in British colonies where they settled, met administrators of Madhya Pradesh and evinced interest in investing in the state.
Dr Vishnu Bisram, who is one of the organizers of the three-day convention at Trinidad and Tobago’s Port of Spain, held talks with policymakers to allow them to start business in Madhya Pradesh. State industries, commerce and overseas Indian minister Rajendra Shukla responded warmly to the proposal.
It was between 1838 and 1917 that close to 3.5 million labourers from India were forced to migrate to work in the sugar plantations in Fiji, Mauritius, Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa and the Caribbean.
“Currently, the fourth- and fifth-generation descendants of the Girmitiya labourers are doing very well across the globe,” said Dr Bisram, who is an IDC representative. “We will be elated to pay back something to our ancestral homeland.”
As per his records, 6 per cent of the Girmitiyas are from areas that are now in Madhya Pradesh.
Dr Bisram, a retired professor of the City University of New York, said the collective value of the descendents of the Girmitiya labourers will be more than $1 trillion. “If Madhya Pradesh can get a slice of the wealth, the state is definitely going to prosper,” he said, after meeting some bureaucrats and industrialists.
The proposal comes two months ahead of a Global Investment Summit to be held in Indore, where a team of Girmitiya investors from across the globe is likely to participate.
Dr Bisram delivered two lectures at Jabalpur, and interacted with the students and teachers of Rani Durgavati University on the possibilities of the role of the descendents of Girmitiyas in Madhya Pradesh.
He could not meet the chief minister to place the proposal of investment, as Shivraj Singh Chouhan had to rush to flooded Satna to oversee rescue operations. His cabinet colleague Shukla, who was busy with relief works in the northeastern Rewa district, hailed the Girmitiya proposal.
“We welcome all investments into the state,” he told HT over phone. “After all, overseas investments are always essential to implement mega projects in India,” he said.
Dr Bisram lauded Madhya Pradesh, saying it had the potential to further rise as a tourist destination. “It is such a beautiful state,” he said. “Unfortunately, we never got to know much about the place.”
The IDC representative wanted the Madhya Pradesh government to send delegates to the worldwide Centennial of the Abolition of Indian Indentureship. The commemoration will begin in New York on September 17 with a kick-off press conference and seminar.