As per the Oxford English dictionary, the word diaspora means “the dispersion or spread of any people from their homeland”. Jews are spread all over the world, but the Jewish diaspora around the world have immensely contributed to the growth and development of Israel. Though lots of crimes and discrimination did take place earlier against the Jews, and a large number of Jews were tortured and prosecuted, especially by forces led by Hitler, they are a force to reckon with across the globe.
Closer home in India, the Gujarati community outside Gujarat and abroad contribute immensely in the growth and progress of Gujarat. Gujaratis outside Gujarat take pride in being Guajarati, make tremendous investments for their home state, and celebrate Navratri and festivities and delicacies anywhere they live. The Guajarati diaspora flock back to Gujarat and take active part, even during elections, and thus, influencing the voters.
Punjabis across the globe have a soft corner for their Punjab. As we have observed recently, Punjabis, especially in Canada and the US, took active part in the last state elections in Punjab. Punjabis have self-pride, and hence such active participation in the spread of Punjabi language and culture not only in India but across the globe; something the Gujaratis do with telling effect. Bhangra dance and Punjabi songs are popular because the Punjabi diaspora listen, enjoy and celebrate these wherever they are – within India and outside India.
Punjabis and Gujaratis celebrate their Diwalis, Navratras, Bhangra, Garba etc in all parts of Assam. The Punjabis and the Gujaratis are rooted in their culture, family, and social values wherever they are, and thus even influencing the local environment where they reside. At the same time, they keep relationship with their home states and keep contributing to the economy and culture of their home states.
Quite a few people from Assam are living and working around the globe – in India and abroad, and outside their home state of Assam. The diaspora, in general, are intelligent, hardworking, knowledgeable, sincere and better off financially – more than the average person in Assam. This group of people is more outward-looking, progressive, and has vast experience of seeing the world. The diaspora from Assam has seen challenges and problems being faced in other parts of the world, and how these challenges and problems are overcome and resolved.
Assam today is one of the laggards – economically and in terms of human development indices among all the states in India. Many of its neighbouring states, though more inaccessible and have lesser resources, have fared better. This is in sharp contrast to Assam, before and at the time of India’s independence. As we understand, Assam’s Gross State Domestic Product was higher than the GDP of the Country, at the time of India’s independence. The agriculture of the State was much better off, even without irrigation facilities. In human development indices like literacy, infant mortality rate, etc., maternal mortality, the State has fallen behind; in fact, even many of our neighbouring states have progressed much ahead.
The diaspora of Assam, that is the people originally of Assam, but now outside Assam – in India and abroad – can definitely influence and contribute in the betterment of the people of the state. The diaspora can contribute in addition to governmental efforts, and beyond the realms of the governments. The above examples of Jews, Gujaratis, and Punjabis can resonate in this regard.
The rich exposure and experience of the diaspora, perhaps, can be best utilized for mentoring the human potential of the state. Lack of exposure, lackadaisical attitude etc have made a majority of the people in Assam not to seek opportunities available and work hard enough towards achieving certain goals in life, financial or otherwise. It is inappropriate to expect the government to dole out jobs. It is in this context that the youths and children of Assam need to be mentored so that they have enough confidence to not only eke out a decent living, but make it big, be it in start-ups, agriculture, technology, business, tourism, development, non-governmental efforts etc. A few success stories can massively improve the attitude, especially of youths, towards life. Many in the diaspora outside Assam are successful in various fields, and this expertise can be used to channelize the human potential of the State. Interactions with the upcoming generations in colleges, universities, schools etc can make impactful contribution.
Ambassadors of Assam:
The diaspora can definitely contribute as ambassadors of the state, in more than one way, and around the globe. Their outlook and the values that they carry can influence the positivity of the state. A few good words about Assam can contribute profoundly about the positivity of the State. They can immensely contribute by promoting culture, places, arts, and history of the state. Celebration of festivities of the state, in its unique and relevant way, can announce many aspects of the state, outside it.
Tourism, including culture, crafts etc can immensely benefit by such word of mouth publicity. We have been hearing about the tourism potential of Assam since 1980s; but even after almost 40 years, even a fraction of this potential has yet to be realized. There are very indigenous products of the State – geographically, culturally, or with locally developed skills that can be promoted and popularized outside Assam. Many in the diaspora can easily be the “promotional ambassadors” of such products – tangible or intangible.
In view of the Look East (now Act East) Policy of the Central government, and the initiatives of the State government by way of Advantage Assam and other things, Assam presents a better investment destination today compared to what it was even a few years back. The state itself needs a lot of investments. Many business houses and others from outside Assam have shown keen interest in investment in the state. However, the diaspora of Assam can take the best advantage of this because of their familiarity and understanding of the state. Collaborations and partnerships with willing individuals and enterprises can, additionally, increase the scope of the endeavours.
Many initiatives are planned and announced by the Central government, but many of these remain on paper and gather dust in government files. The result is that many of such programmes do not see the light of the day, and even those which start off take many extra years before these are completed. The State needs influencing groups or lobbyists or pressure groups who can monitor the implementation of initiatives, plans and programmes of the Central government, and also can initiate new efforts with the government for the benefit of the state. The need is more in Delhi, the national capital, as also in Mumbai, the financial capital. Fortunately, the Central government is now more willing for partnerships with the private sector.
These are some areas where the diaspora can work, but there are others like identifying and managing sportspersons in a state where there is no dearth of raw talent, especially among the children.
To summarize, the diaspora of Assam, engaged outside of Assam, can definitely play a more pro-active role in redefining and reshaping the future of the state, and this can be mutually beneficial for the diaspora and its people.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)