For centuries people have migrated for better economic opportunities. Security and dignity in life are other factors in migration. Goans had been migrating to British colonies and in the post-colonial period, they saw opportunities in the UK, Canada, Australia and the US.
In 2015 the then CM told the legislative assembly that ‘…Goa will be a state for senior citizens and it will reduce the productivity of the state’ In 2018 Manohar Parrikar stated ‘Only opportunities are required, otherwise we would have the Mangueshkars staying in Goa. Why did they migrate?’ He promised new IT and industrial policies to build opportunities. The finance minister in her budget speech claimed ‘our vision for ‘Amrit Kaal’ includes a technology-driven and a knowledge-based economy with strong public finances and robust financial sector’. Amrit Kaal is a period of 25 years from India’s 75th Independence Day. In 2015 the Central Government brought a national skill development mission with an avowed objective of creating a skilled workforce.
When Goans migrated in the early 20th century onwards, they were vulnerable. Industrialization and creating employment opportunities were not the forte of the Portuguese. They facilitated emigration and even collected taxes from the emigrants and again when they came back to Goa on holidays they had to pay a second time.
Emigration created a unique model of remittance economy which brought affluence in the villages. Migration has been the DNA of the Christians in Goa. Being more Western in their practices, dress and food habits, with some knowledge of English, their assimilation into the Western world was easy. The clubs, associations, churches and parties provided the social support system. A 2008 Goa migration study shows that 74% of Goa emigrants were Christians. One of every three Christian houses has an emigrant. The study concludes that “rich, cultural syncretism, Goans with a more inclusive identity which facilitated their migration, adoption and integration into new cultures”.
An 1850 census (old conquests only) shows Christians over 65%. There has been a steady decline in the Christian population. In 1961 they were at 38.07%., 2011 census shows 25.10%. Goa’s per capita income is the highest in the country with little visible poverty, unlike other parts of the country. Our underclass always dreams of a great lifestyle. The dream of a new life takes them across the oceans. Christian-dominated villages are getting vacuum-cleaned as the residents chase the dream of better opportunities and lifestyle.
The laid-back attitude attributed to Goans gives a wrong impression of working habits. But our society values labour with contempt and with very little dignity. Who says Goans are not hard-working? They built the railway lines in East Africa and contributed to the building of towns and cities there. They provided the backbone to the administration in Africa. The British government considered them loyal and ‘hardworking’. The English knowledge was only an icing on the cake. Researcher Margret Frenz tells us that in Zanzibar, the majority of Goans went into business in the mid-20th century. All that was required was a little patronage from the Zanzibar Sultanate, like the one the Saraswat Community in Goa had from the Portuguese!
Goans & Indians built their romantic dreams with life in the UK, Canada, Australia and the US. With globalization came materialism and consumerism. International cuisine, cruise, dance & drink and party time became the new world order. The ancient values started giving way to the Western lifestyle. Cosmopolitan way of life became more acceptable as Indians always found greener pastures in the Western world. The trickle is now exodus. 2,25,620 Indians gave up Indian citizenship in 2022. According to a report by the London-based Henley and Partners, around 8000 high-net-worth individuals will leave India this year. The exodus of the rich and elite quitting India is the second-highest estimated net outflow globally after China. The rich and the elite who benefited most from the ‘Bharatiya’ policies are also quitting in the ‘Amrit Kaal’ period. Tax terrorism, freedom of thought & a corrupt system are other matters facilitating the emigration. Our ecosystem does not breed entrepreneurs. Though our GDP is growing, unemployment is increasing leading to a strange economic situation.
It is society’s collective failure to protect the vulnerable and provide opportunities. But when it comes to the rich, it is a severe indictment of the ruling party. As per WION almost half of the first rankers of standard 10th and 12th board exams between 1996 to 2015 i.e. the brightest of Indian minds migrated to other countries. That much of a brain drain is dangerous for any country. The ‘Skill India’, and ‘Make in India’ missions designed to harness the talent at home have failed. We can only take pride that we have a successful, prosperous and influential diaspora.
Goa has a unique model of its people visiting family at home at least once a year for festivals and family events and after working in the prime of their lives, retire and settle in Goa with a minuscule elite section opting for Western countries. That model has collapsed with the Portuguese passport providing visa-free travel to 135 countries. This has led to demographic complications and a time is not far away when we may have to mourn the death of a community.
Currently, the UK and Canada are reeling under poor economic growth. The Western world faces growing inflation. The national health system, particularly in the UK is crumbling. The big 4 emigrant destinations are tightening up immigration rules. Entrepreneurship can flower in a progressive atmosphere with a scientific outlook. Can ‘Bharat’ seize the opportunity to reverse the brain drain? Will ‘Bharat’ provide a liberal atmosphere for a cosmopolitan lifestyle?
Unless the economy gets vibrant and the diaspora smells of opportunities, emotive issues like love for the motherland, local culture and nationalism cannot get them back. Pristine beaches, good weather, great parties and a relaxed life will only bring lifestyle migrants from other places to Goa!