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Journal number 1 ∘ Elizabeth Chako
Conspicuous Consumption and Philanthropy: Connections between Punjabi Immigrants from the Doaba Region and their Hometowns


This paper seeks to analyze the processes and practices of connections of first-generation diasporas from the state of Punjab, India to their hometowns in the Doaba region and consider the likely involvement of 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants in their ancestors’ birthplace.  Indian Punjab has been one of the leading areas of emigration from India (along with the states of Kerala and Gujarat) in the 20th century. Estimates of the Punjabi population scattered across the globe varies from 1 million (Tatla, 2004) to 10 million (Ahmed, 2008).

The region known as Punjab (Land of the Five Rivers) in the Indian subcontinent is composed of the terrain covered by the River Indus and its tributaries (Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas).  The central area of Punjab is divided into three regions: Majha (land between the Ravi and Beas rivers), Doaba (between the Beas and Sutlej rivers) and Malwa (the area to the south and east of the river Sutlej).  The Doaba region is particularly known for high rates of outmigration to the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and countries of south-east Asia and Africa and is also known as Punjab’s “NRI[1] Belt”.  Doaba has hundreds of villages as well as large towns and cities such as Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Nawanshahr, Dasua, Phagwara, Banga and Nakodar, all of which are areas from which Punjabis have emigrated to various parts of the world. 

A diaspora’s continued interest in the well being of their community of origin and its future trajectories is often expressed through philanthropic giving and long-term connections.  In Punjab, the monetary, material, and social impacts of emigrants from these rural and urban sending areas are clearly seen in their built, cultural, economic and social landscapes that are continually being transformed due to financial and social remittances, philanthropic enterprises and more recently, collaborations between the emigrants and local and state institutions.

Punjabi Emigration - Push and Pull Factors

In general, migration to locations abroad and often from one international location to another from Punjab has occurred mainly as a result of a combination of factors, among them rural indebtedness, population pressure, political unrest, shortage of land and opportunities for upward socio-economic advancement.  However, the push factors during different periods of time and for different groups varied. Jat Sikhs have historically been the main emigrant community from Punjab. Among the Jats, a predominantly land-owning agricultural caste group, outmigration especially of younger sons was a strategy for rural families who did not wish for landholdings to be further fragmented and also wished to improve their economic fortunes (McLeod,1989; Barrier, 1989).   

In the earlier decades of outmigration (1880s – 1940s) these economic migrants were mostly young men who journeyed together with relatives or fellow-villagers and were unaccompanied by womenfolk.  The migrants may have financed their journey by mortgaging land or obtaining a loan from a money lender.  Given that loans needed to be repaid and land repossessed, the plan was to work hard, make and save money (the bulk of which would be remitted to the home village) and eventually to return home as a successful migrant (Tatla, 2004). 

Traditionally, the money remitted besides being used for daily necessities and improve the economic lot of the immigrants’ family, was also used to display status, given to religious institutions or as charitable donations.  The purchase of additional agricultural land and the digging of Persian wells (often funded by migrant remittances) for irrigation improved agricultural productivity in Doaba during the early 20th century.  Migrants also aspired to build a brick house and have lavish weddings with large dowries for daughters and sisters, both emblems of having attained a higher socio-economic status (Tatla, 2004).

Changes in immigration and naturalization policies in major immigrant receiving countries such as the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia, had an enormous impact on the nature and composition of migrant flows from the 1960s onwards.  Punjabi immigrants to the United Kingdom in the 1950s and early 1960s were largely working class and helped fill Britain’s need for labor in its industries.  As U.K immigration laws tightened in the 1960s, those of the United States and Canada were relaxed, allowing in greater numbers of immigrants (both unskilled and skilled) from developing regions of the world.  While traditional receiving areas in Canada such as Vancouver and surrounding areas in British Columbia, and the north-western areas of the United States continued to receive unskilled immigrants through processes of sponsorship and family reunification, Punjabi immigrants also included rising numbers of professionals and high-skill persons (Barrier and Dusenberry, 1989; Dusenberry, 2008).

Diasporas and Hometown/Community Development

First generation migrants and diasporas can contribute to the development of their home villages and towns by sending remittances to close and extended family members (Orozco, 2005a; Ratha, 2005), by investing in businesses (Gillespie and Andriasova, 2008), and setting up new businesses such as manufacturing units and  services such as health care centers, schools and training facilities and sports stadia.  Portes (2006) notes that if a diaspora is to be involved in sustained development, migrations should be cyclical/circular whereby low-skill migrants return to their countries of origin with money saved for investment, and migrant professionals engage in transnational activities that contribute to the home country’s development.  Since today many low-skill first generation immigrants from Punjab have gained citizenship in countries such as the United Kingdom, United States and Canada, where they have settled permanently, they are unlikely to engage in cyclical migration. However, many visit the homeland when possible and maintain contact with their relatives and kin (biradari) and remain attached to the home villages and towns.

Impacts of Immigrants on Landscapes of Punjab

While the “myth of return” was the lot of early Punjabi immigrants who traveled to distant places such as the Pacific Northwest, only to settle there, never to return for good to the home village, recent immigrants are more transnational in nature and most often maintain connections to both home and host countries.  While those who planned to return often bought land and built a brick house in the hometown (standard symbols of achievement) with ornamentation typical of NRIs, these were rarely used by their owners except on brief return visits.

Nevertheless, these emigrants continued to have strong linkages with their ancestral villages and towns.  Emotional geographies among those who left Punjab are seen at various spatial scales, not merely at the expected ones of the individual and family. The home, the community, the village, town or city, state and country all carry significant emotional significance (Davidson and Milligan, 2004; Bondi, Davidson and Smith, 2007).  The emotional and affective engagement of first generation Punjabi immigrants with their home towns and villages is underlain by linkages of kinship, heritage and religion. The idea of Punjab as home and the place to which they trace their roots is embodied in the minds and hearts of her people even after they leave.

Village Gates and Mansions:  A ‘decoding’ or a deconstruction of the iconographic images and symbols of attachment within a larger complex of cultural, social and political values provide insights into the aspects of the home state and communities that resonate with the diaspora. There are several visible markers of diaspora emotional and material involvement in Punjab’s cultural, social and economic landscapes.  Iconography that conveys the ideals and values of the Punjabi Sikh and Hindu communities and the hopes and dreams of the native and diasporic communities is often seen on structures and edifices in the region. The highways that cut through rural Doaba are dotted with ornamental gateways and arches that mark the entrance to villages.  These gateways have largely been financed by members of the diaspora for whom they serve as visible markers and reminders of heritage and belonging.  

Through color, inscriptions, ornamentation, and symbols, village gates can evoke a plethora of attachments and affiliations.  Khanda, the Sikh emblem, which consists of an encircled double-edged sword flanked by two daggers is often seen on Sikh temples (gurudwaras), buildings and gates of villages and homes.  Some village gates are surmounted by lions, symbols of valor that are reflected in the name (Singh) that all Sikh males carry.  Other gates may carry images or statues of tigers, also symbols of courage.

On the outskirts of many Doaba cities like Jalandhar are recently constructed NRI houses, which can be identified by the statues they sport on their rooftops.  These larger-than-life figures include yoked bullocks, alluding to the Punjab’s rich agricultural lands;  animals and birds such as the horse and the peacock (the national bird of India and sometimes considered the guardian of royalty) or Grecian urns.  These statues are for show, signaling to the community that the home belongs to an NRP.  Occasionally, one of these structures may do double-duty as an overhead water tank.

Many of the plaques on impressive village gates (see Image 2), on closer examination, indicate that the donors and sponsors who funded their erection were diasporan Punjabis. These expatriate donors sometimes chose to commemorate and immortalize family members (particularly their parents) and ancestors through inscriptions on the gates. It may be understood that these immigrants are re-inscribing their identities onto the landscape through the use of family names, images and other items that affirm their origins and attachments. Others may prefer to depict the Sikh gurus, Hindu gods or more secular images.

Religious Organizations and Charities: Remittances and donations from émigrés have also been used to construct Sikh gurudwaras and Hindu temples or refurbish old ones. Gurudwaras and temples also use donations for charitable enterprises including orphanages, free meals (langar), religious instruction, and lodging and other facilities for pilgrims at important religious sites.

Inflows of foreign funds from foreign associations and individuals who live abroad and are naturalized citizens or persons of Indian origin to NGOs have to be maintained by the Indian Home Ministry through the country’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FRCA). In spite of the large size of the Punjabi diaspora, the number of FRCA organizations in the state was only 114 in 2009-2010, while top ranking Tamil Nadu state had over 3218 organizations and brought in about USD 333 million.  Punjab does not even figure among the top 15 states in terms of either number of Sikh and Hindu FRCA organizations (7) or funds received (Ministry of Home Affairs, India, 2010). 

Indians have a long history of faith-based philanthropic giving. However, due to concerns about diasporic funding of extremist and sectarian groups (such as Sikh terrorists in the 1980s and early 1990s), contributions to Sikh charities and trusts in Punjab have possibly been under scrutiny, which might explain the lower number of Sikh and Hindu religious charities registered under FRCA.  Verne Dusenberry (2008) argues since the Punjabi diaspora is composed largely of Sikhs, the foundation for diasporic philanthropy is laid by the Sikh scriptures, which emphasizes the giving of alms/charity and performing selfless service as two important tenets of followers of Sikhism. The low number of FRCA organizations in Punjab does not therefore necessarily indicate low levels of philanthropic giving. 

In 2017, the Indian diaspora remitted $69 billion to the country but only 1.7 percent of these remittances went to Punjab (Reserve Bank of India, 2018).

It is known that large amounts of money are transferred to India by the diaspora through the informal value transfer system know as hawala or hundi.  A remittance system that runs parallel to the formal banking and financial channels, hawala depends on social networks and a network of brokers, whose commission rates are typically lower than those charged by banks and other financial institutions. Therefore, it is possible that Punjabi philanthropists may channel money to the home state through informal channels and that the official remittance numbers do not accurately reflect financial transfers to Punjab.

Infrastructural and Social Projects: In recent years, non-resident Indians hailing from Punjab, known by the acronym NRP (non resident Punjabis), have actively sought to develop their home towns and villages as individuals, and through hometown associations, family foundations and private trusts.  Hometown associations are organizations that are formed by immigrants sharing a common heritage and nationality. Through hometown associations, immigrants not only maintain relationships with their communities of origin but also as a diasporic community in the place of settlement in the receiving country. Orozco and Garcia-Zanello (2009) in a study determined that 13 percent of Asian Indians living in the United States belonged to a hometown association.   All of these diaspora organizations facilitate the transfer of money and resources to the home communities, towns and villages.  The diaspora has financed infrastructural, educational and health-related projects that provide tangible benefits to all village or hometown residents and aim to improve the quality of life in these settlements.

Education: A primary area of philanthropic giving by NRPs has been in educational development. Schools were established by Punjabi immigrants in their home towns as early as the first decades of the 20th century.  After the 1980s, the diaspora also began to build colleges, vocational training centres and libraries in their ancestral villages and towns.  A well-known success story is that of Village Palahi in Kapurthala district, which now has a polytechnic, library, three schools, solar lighting for streets, a community hall, a community park and a community biogas plant, all funded in part by the village’s diaspora, which was actively involved in educational development activities here as early as 1922. Today, much of the funds to the village are channelled through the village NGO, the National Rural Development Society Palahi (NRDSP), established in 1983, which also oversees  development activities (Walton-Roberts, 2004; Migration for Development, 2012).  

As India’s and Punjab’s youth population increases, there is more demand for educational opportunities at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. 

The government has not been able to match this demand and is looking to the private sector to fill the gap.  NRPs have contributed greatly to establishment of schools and colleges in the home state and towns. In a survey conducted by the NRI Sabha of Punjab, (an organization established in 1996 by the Government of Punjab in cooperation with NRPs to facilitate the latter’s involvement with the home state), more than half of the social development projects involved educational institutions (Walton-Roberts, 2005). Alumni from currently cash-strapped government medical colleges in the cities of Amritsar, Ludhiana and Patiala have also stepped in with donations of equipment and cash (Interview with former alumni of Christian Medical College, Ludhiana). 

Medical Care and Medical Education:   Often the greatest impact that philanthropists can have is in rural areas of Punjab which are lacking in services. One of the largest pistachio growers in the world, a Punjabi in California, left his business to his sons and returned to his home village in Hoshiarpur to build a 200-bed hospital and an institute of information technology. Another Sikh entrepreneur, who left for Canada in 1960 returned to Punjab in 1984 to open a small 15-bed out-patient medical facility on a small parcel of land donated by the twin villages of Dhahan and Kaleran on the Chandigarh-Jalandhar highway. 

Building on the success of this modest effort, the entrepreneur (Budh Singh) established the Guru Nanak Mission Medical and Education Trust that culminated over the years in the establishment of the biggest NRI funded charitable hospital in Punjab, the Guru Nanak Mission Hospital (Vinayak, 2008). The founder mobilized about USD 10 million from over 15,000 NRI families to build not just the multi-specialty hospital, but also a nursing college, a 15-bed de-addiction center, free ambulance services and a school in his village of Dhahan near Nawanshahr. His aim is to provide high quality but subsidized medical care to villagers.  He also plans to build a medical college, a trauma center and cardiac care center.  Given the chronic shortage of medical personnel in rural areas, Budh Singh has collaborated with the North American Medical and Dental Association, which regularly supplies 15 experts to the hospital on a rotation. 

Similarly, NRPs living in Canada established the Village Life Improvement Board (VLIP) in Village Kharaudi, Hoshiarpur district, transforming the settlement into one with paved roads, a modern functioning sewerage system and a sewage treatment plant.  Through their efforts, they were also able to get CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) to become involved in the development of rural areas in Punjab through matching grants. Individual philanthropists and groups of émigrés have contributed by donating money, initiating educational, medical and social development ventures and continuing to play active and advisory roles in their villages’ development.

Punjabi Diaspora in Partnership with State and National Governments

Philanthropic investments in Punjab have been approximately Rs. 100 crore (USD 20 million) during the last decade. Recent Punjabi diaspora engagement with hometown development has been assisted by Indian and Punjab government policies that encourage and facilitate the involvement of emigrants in their sending regions. Additionally, the Punjab government in the mid-2000s allocated Rs. 5 crore (USD 1 million) for collaborations with NRIs for rural infrastructure.  The Government of Punjab has made concerted efforts to engage the diaspora, creating entities such as the Department of NRI Affairs to liase with the group.  In 1996, the NRI Sabha was founded as a joint Punjab government-civil society venture to steward the interests and welfare of the Non-Resident Punjabis and strengthen their emotional and ethnic bonds with Punjab. It has also formed a Punjab NRI Committee for Development (PUNRICD) for the purpose of providing matching (1:1) grants to NRI-sponsored projects (Department of NRI Affairs, Government of Punjab, 2012).

In 2002, the NRI Sabha Punjab conducted a survey in nine development blocks in Doaba, and found that NRIs from the area had remitted some 2 billion Indian rupees (almost 40 million USD) to 477 villages in this region.  It was found that the money, besides being used to build or upgrade religious centers, was used for a wide range of infrastructural projects that included the building of schools, colleges, clinics, health centers, hospitals, sports facilities and community centers as well as infrastructure  (Dusenberry 2008). 

Noting the important role played by the diaspora in development, the Government of India and the Government of Punjab have sought to further facilitate the transfer of remittances from abroad and to channel and utilize them as capital for infrastructure improvements and social services. The Government of Punjab established the “Mera Pind Initiative” (meaning, My Village Initiative) that partners with NRIs through matching grants (1:1) for infrastructural, social and economic development in the state for up to Rs. 50 crores (USD 10 million) per project. The suggested Integrated Village Development Projects have been broadly classified as those that pertain to water management services, village infrastructure, renewable energy, education and health care, establishment of citizen services centers with broadband connectivity and job training centres.

In addition, the Mera Pind Initiative also looks to fund special programs such as schools and training for the handicapped, alcohol and drug treatment centers, vocational training for women, the construction of old age homes and programs to combat female feticide and to balance the sex ratio in the state of Punjab. As of 2019, several infrastructure projects costing USD 240,000 have been funded through Mera Pind.  About 30 villages that were lacking a proper sewage system now have one thanks to NRI funding through the initiative.  Other projects that were funded include the paving of village streets, installation of solar powered street lights and the building of schools, an orphanage, a hospital, a medical center, a gymnasium and even a stadium (Government of Punjab, 2019b ).

Programs to Address Emerging Social Issues

India’s sex ratios, which had become increasingly masculinized rose slightly from 927 to 933 making a major change towards near-equal representation between 1991 and 2001. However, in Punjab, it fell even more from 882 in 1991 to 874 in 2001.  Moreover, seven of the ten districts noted for the lowest sex ratios in the 0-6 age groups were in Punjab in 2001 (Kapur, 2006).  The practice of sex-selective abortion, which though illegal, is still believed to be widely practiced in Punjab, and possibly among Punjabi immigrants living abroad.  The Punjabi-Canadian author Ajmer Rode in his play Nirlajj (Shameless) assails the feudal mentality of the Punjabi community and its blatant preference for boy children over girls.  Sex-based selective abortions are the probable cause of falling sex ratios in Punjab and therefore efforts have been made to combat this through initiatives at the level of the state and district. 

The Punjab government has offered a reward of 250,000 rupees (~US$5,550) to communities that achieve a target sex ratio among recorded births. Some districts in Doaba, such as Nawashahr have made controlling female feticide and equalizing the sex ratio a component of government policy and the Integrated Village Development Projects that are financed through the Mera Pind initiative. Noticeable improvements have been made in Punjab, with the state’s overall sex ratio improving by 18 points to 893 females per 1000 males between the 2001 and 2011 censuses.  Hoshiarpur (962) and Jalandhar (913) were among the three districts that reached sex ratios over 900 in 2011. Nawanshahr recorded 949 female births for every 1000 male births in 2011, almost reaching the naturally occurring ratio of 952:1000. On a smaller scale, Jalahmazra village in Nawashahr received the Punjab government’s reward for reaching the specified sex ratio in 2006 (Kannampilly, 2012; Rau, 2006).

The exodus of the young people from villages and towns has sometimes resulted in a disproportionately large number of the elderly behind.  Traditionally, in India, the family takes care of the elders, who live with younger generations in a joint family system. However, this culture has changed due to the rising number of nuclear families and the permanent departure of younger family members due to emigration.  Hence, the Mera Pind Initiative also emphasizes the building of old age homes for elderly who do not have family to care for them.

Drugs are recognized as a modern-day scourge of Punjab, where the use of opium, heroin and synthetic drugs is common.  Roughly 60 percent of all illicit drugs confiscated in India were seized in Punjab (Yardley, 2012).  A study indicated that almost a third of adolescents and young adults in the state between the ages of 15 and 35 are addicted to drugs including heroin and intravenous drugs (Sharma et al., 2017).  Alcohol abuse is also prevalent. Treatment centers for drug and alcohol addiction and efforts to control AIDS are other initiatives that are funded through collaborations between the government and diaspora as part of the integrated village development program. Schools for educating and training the mentally and physically handicapped are also on the program.

While there are efforts towards greater collaboration between NRPs and the government at different levels (union, state, district), there is still mistrust between the two groups.  The Government of India proposed to levy a 12 percent service tax on remittances from abroad starting July 1, 2012, a move that was strongly opposed by officials at the state level and the diaspora. Punjabis in the diaspora are concerned that any government involvement will result in leakages as bureaucracies are financed to run the joint enterprises.  They are also worried about money being siphoned off due to corruption and their financial contributions not having the desired impact on hometowns and villages. Punjabi philanthropists from Canada who transformed their native village into a model settlement noted that government officials and contractors often quoted double the amount of money that was necessary to build facilities, as they were used to getting a cut from money that was allocated by the government for its various projects.

The Involvement of 2nd and 3rd Generation Immigrants in Home State Development

The desire of 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants to maintain their cultural identity even as they become integrated into the receiving society and identify with it has been highlighted by scholarly research (Maira, 2002; Purkayastha, 2005; Shankar, 2008).  For succeeding immigrant generations, often the desire to solidify an identity that stretches back to the sending country finds expression in music, dance, language and various art forms that get transformed from the original due to local, diasporic and transnational influences. While this kind of diasporic attachment fills a need to define their cultural identity among the 2nd and later immigrant generations, detailed knowledge and experience of the country or province of their ancestors is often lacking, as exposure to native cultures and ways of life may be limited, confined as they are to short visits for family celebrations or tourism purposes.

Geithner et al. (2004) mention that 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants tend to be less parochial in their giving, as they often identify with the country of their forebears rather than with a province or village.  A way forward that maintains connections at the scale of the village or town across generations could be for diasporan philanthropists to establish foundations, trusts and societies for the continuation of their work.  These organizations can sustain development in the long run and to use the strength of the larger, globally dispersed diaspora to assure the longevity of projects. For example, the Sikh philanthropist who initially set up a 15-bed medical facility in his native village went on to establish the Guru Nanak Mission International Charitable Trust, which operates dispensaries, hospitals and colleges in Punjab.  Although the octogenarian still takes an active role in running the mission’s various projects, the partnerships he has established with local government, local and foreign universities and the diaspora are not likely to disintegrate when he is no longer at the helm.  Budh Singh is also one of the founders of the Canada-India Education Society whose mission is to provide education to the poor and particularly to girls in rural Punjab.  Second and third generation immigrants could participate in these and other organizations through internships and work, which are more likely to cement their connection to the hometown than a fleeting visit. 

At the national level, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs established a “Know India Programme”, a 25 day orientation that seeks to promote awareness of India among diaspora youth aged 18-30 years of age.  The program includes interactions with faculty and students at a designated university, site visits to industries, villages, sites of historical importance, and meetings with persons holding high ranking political positions. The youth are also exposed to India’s cultural heritage, political processes and media (The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, 2019).  

The NRI commission in Punjab too is seeking to encourage visits by second and third generation Punjabi immigrants, some of whom have never been to the home state of their ancestors.  They hope that these visits will connect the young diasporic Punjabis to their roots and culture in a more tangible manner, encourage them to forge and maintain bonds and also invest in the home state and contribute towards its development. Following the successful lead of the state of Gujarat, which also has a large diaspora, the NRI commission in Punjab plans to offer NRPs an incentive package and a special card that provides discounts and concessions at malls, stores, hotels and other places where the young people are likely to spend time and money.

Young diasporic Punjabis have also initiated intra-diaspora exchanges by establishing organizations, launching websites and starting blogs on the Punjabi homeland and culture. They make effective use of electronic transnational space to build community and connections across continents. Some such as Save Panjab (www.SavePanjab.org) try to increase awareness of the problems in Punjab through reports, articles and data, while also attempting to mitigate or reverse some of these problems.  In describing themselves, they state,” We want Panjabis worldwide to reclaim our Des Panjab (Punjab Homeland) one step at a time, from water to culture”. Others such as Sikhchic (www.sikhchic.com) have the avowed intent of focusing on the art and culture of Sikhs and the Sikh diaspora, reaching out to its constituents through a weekly online magazine, discussion boards and daily quotes from the Sikh scriptures.  Judging from responses and comments, those who read the sikhchich magazine hail from across the globe with concentrations in North America, Europe, Australia, Southeast Asia and India.  The use of English rather than Punjabi by these organizations and sites clearly targets second and third generation immigrants who, though possibly conversant in spoken Punjabi often cannot read or write in the gurmukhi script. 

However, for continued involvement of later generations in philanthropy and development of the towns, villages and provinces from which their parents or ancestors hailed stronger and more lasting connections than those forged through blogs and the internet need to be established.  Orozco (2005b) stated that ownership, correspondence, sustainability and replicability were factors that were essential if a hometown association was to be involved in development.  These criteria are also necessary for successful long-term alliances between immigrants and hometown development.  The ownership of diaspora-initiated projects by both the local and expatriate community, the correspondence of these initiatives with local and regional development priorities, the ability to work with other existing institutions or agencies (including those of the state) and the assurance of long-term sustainability with no added burdens to local communities are all key to a accomplishing a viable partnership between the diaspora and their hometowns.


The Punjabi home village or town is often a place that is still “home” to first generation immigrants.  The name and memory of the homeland place evokes feelings of attachment, love, familiarity and even sadness.  For first generation immigrants, relationships with the homeland, although attenuated over time do not vanish.  The strong ties to the land often draw these immigrants back on a temporary or permanent basis.  Members are motivated to contribute by genuine altruism towards their kinsfolk, self-interest in creating a more comfortable environment for visits home or retirement, and by social or religious obligations.  While the Punjabi diaspora is increasingly conducting its philanthropy through organizations such as NGOs, charitable trusts, foundations and associations, all of which are better suited to continuing the work for hometown development than individuals, this channel for development has not grown significantly.

Immigrants from Punjab have transformed the infrastructure, medical facilities and educational institutions of their home state, particularly in rural areas which have lagged behind in development.  While the efforts of the state government of Punjab in organizing the synergistic use of private and public funds is laudable and can have long lasting impacts particularly in poorly developed rural areas, there are concerns that that funds from overseas for local development eases pressure on the government to provide institutions and means for social and economic development.  Moreover, individual diasporans and even associations and foundations may not always know the needs of the community and hence may impose projects that are likely to bring visibility to the donor (particularly if the project is egocentric), but may be inappropriate, unrealistic or difficult to sustain.  Attracting 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants to work for the development of their parents’ and grandparents’ hometowns is also a challenge, but possibly one that can be overcome by encouraging them to return not just for tourism and cultural events, but to be actively involved in development projects by working in them.

Keywords: Punjab, emigration, immigration, diaspora, remittances.

JEL Codes: F20, F22, F24


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[1] Non-resident Indian, or someone who was born in India, but now lives abroad.