The PBD Session on Girmityas was chaired by Mr. Shyam Parande, Secretary General, Antar- Rashtiya Sahyog Parishad, India. The other eminent panellists were: Ms Usha Dwarka Canabady, Prof Gopal Arora, Professor, University of Delhi, and Amb R Dayakar, Chaiman, Diaspora Affairs Committee, Antar- Rashtiya Sahyog Parishad, India.
The session focussed on the history of Girmityas. Migration in search of better opportunities is a natural phenomenon. Soon after the abandonment of slavery in Africa there was a need to find workers who were trained agricultural labourers to work in places like Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago etc. Sugar plantations were important for the economy.
On the other hand, industrialisation had killed the labour oriented textile and other village art were on the verge of perishing. People were famished and in need for work to sustain families. A new concept of indentured labour or agreement labour was conceptualised. The uneducated Indian farmer who could not understand or speak in English termed it ‘Girmityas’. There was movement of labour from East UP, West Bihar, Tamil Nadu travelling to the foreign lands under an agreement. These people were promised a lot but on the contrary were made to work under inhuman circumstances.
The panellists unanimously agreed that the Girmityas have bonded together across the world by little things like the National Anthem etc. However to keep this bond strong, they needed to work together, exchange ideas, be CSR missionaries to India and conduct exchange programmes.
The need was felt to involve the young diaspora and make them aware of their country of origin through the ‘Know India Programme’.
It was proposed that through FICCI, they could explore to have an annual convention of the Girmityas from around the world on the side-lines of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.
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