Living thousands of miles away from their homeland,
a large number of non-resident Indians (NRIs) have never lost their
fondness for India. They have always wanted to invest in India. According
to a World Bank report, nearly six million Indians working abroad sent
home 30 billion dollars during 2008 making India, the top receiver of
migrant remittances. For instance, almost each family in the Giljian
Village near Jalandhar today boasts of having at least one member living
in abroad. The village has 300 houses. But the impact of the slump in
the US economy has started to show in this village with almost zero
NRI visits and a sharp fall in the remittances, especially in Punjab.
Punna Singh, the Head of Giljian Village, said: "Nearly 80 per cent
of village people are living in foreign countries.
Earlier, at this time, around 50 per cent of the NRIs
used to visit the village. But this year nobody has come, especially
from the US Only one or two families have come here to attend marriages.
The economic slowdown has a major role to play. There is big crisis
in foreign countries. The incomes have reduced a lot." Devendra Kumar,
member of the Jalandhar Money Exchange Association, said: " At present,
the business, which was 80 per cent earlier, has gone down to 20 per
cent. People from foreign countries used to send money to their homes
through Western Union. But these days nobody is sending money because
of the global meltdown."
A sharp decline in NRI remittances spells trouble for
Punjab's economy. The affect of the US recession was evident at the
annual NRI convention, organized by the NRI Sabha. Despite having 12,000
non-resident Indians as members, the presence of the NRIs remained less
than a thousand this year in the meeting, which is held to boost NRI
investments in the state. Many people, however, say that the Punjabis
love for their homeland is a fact that cannot be discounted. VIC Dhillon,
an NRI and Member of Parliament, Bramptin, West, said: "From an individual
point, they can invest in small houses, a piece of land. I know there
are joint ventures who are ready and prepared to plan and build big
industries as well. India is such a big country and there is a demand
for so many things that I believe NRIs can come and fulfill." Virendra
Sharma, Parliament Private Secretary, and UK, said: "As far as the NRIs
are concerned, they can give the financial investment.
They can give some kind of a technical know-how; they
can provide other resources, which are needed to set up any project,
which is finance, human, and the technical know-how, the three areas
NRIs fully qualify to give to the state. "Despite uncertainty in the
market, the spirits are high among the expatriate Punjabis. They are
waiting for good old days to return so that they can wholeheartedly
contribute to the economic upliftment of Punjab.