The Indian diaspora can act as a crucial force in the nation’s all-round development, and leverage its potential
A recent UN report says that India now has the largest ‘diaspora’ in the world, with more than 17.5 million persons of Indian origin living abroad. This Non-Resident Indian (NRI) pool represents a little over 1 percent of India’s population but is a crucial cog in the wheel of India’s development.
How does the Indian diaspora benefit India? The biggest way is through regular remittances. According to a World Bank report released in April, India was the largest remittance-receiving country in the world, with an estimated $69 billion in 2015.
This amounts to a whopping 3.4 percent of India’s GDP, an amazing multiplier because just 1 percent of the citizenry, which does not even live in the country, contributes more than three times its fair share to the nation’s wealth.
Stimulating the economy
There are other advantages that diaspora populations bring that are harder to measure. When they visit India, they tend to spend more lavishly than the locals, thereby helping economic activity. NRIs are more prone to donate to domestic charities because of the strong cultural and emotional feelings that they nurse.
They bring technical and domain expertise to domestic start-ups and often act as angel investors. Diaspora Indian faculty abroad volunteer time and resources to help faculty on Indian campuses improve the quality of education — as in the case of member institutions of the Indo Universal Collaboration of Engineering Education.
With a little commitment and some creative thinking, the government could double or even treble the already substantial economic value of diaspora contributions by carefully designing a set of policies to exploit the talent, industriousness, and patriotism of those living abroad. (This writer has been an NRI for 30 years).