Central Gujarat is characterised by its high population density and a well-developed agricultural sector, especially in the ‘Charotar’ tract which roughly consists of the districts of Kheda and Anand, located between the Mahi and Sabarmati rivers. The soil of this tract is fertile and particularly suitable for tobacco. Visitors in the 18th century CE were impressed by the prosperity and potential of the region. By the end of the 19th century, these districts had already become highly commercialised, and with the Green Revolution of the 1960s the agricultural economy and agro-based industries flourished. During this period, the provincial town of Anand developed into a centre for agricultural trade and industries.
Anand remained a provincial town but its urban growth gained momentum after 1955 when Vallabh Vidyanagar was developed as an educational centre, attracting students and staff from across the region. The administrative division of Kheda district made Anand town the capital of the new Anand district in 1997. Various government offices were established, giving further impetus to urban growth. The town has now developed into a regional centre for business, employment, education, government, and increasingly also for settlement by rural migrants. In the 1950s, Anand was still a small (10 km-wide) town with a total population of 25,767 residents (Charotar Sarva Sandra 1954). Today the urban conglomeration known as Anand consists of Anand town, Vallabh Vidyanagar, and several adjoining villages: Gamdi, Mogri, Vithal Udyognagar, Karamsad, and parts of Bakrol and Jitodiya, and has a total population of 209,410 (Census 2011).
Till recently, it was mainly members of the landowning agricultural community known as Patels who migrated abroad. Patels migrated to East Africa in the early part of the twentieth century and from there to Britain in the 1960s and 1970s; more recently they have begun moving to the UK and US. With the increasing accessibility of student visas to the UK, Australia and the USA, migration is mediated through visa agents and no longer depends on caste-based networks. This has opened up the possibility of going abroad to other communities and classes, including Christians, Muslims, and the lower castes. More recently, skilled and unskilled labour migration to Gulf destinations is also taking place from this region, facilitated by agents in Mumbai or by village-based networks.
According to a survey conducted by ProGlo and the Gujarat Institute of Development Research, the top five migration destinations of migrants from Anand and Kheda districts are: 1. United Kingdom (37%), 2. United States of America (32%), 3. Australia (12.8%), 4. Canada (6.7%), 5. Saudi Arabia (17%). To read more about this survey, please use the links to WP 6, RR 7 and RR 8 below.
NRI investments and donations in Central Gujarat:
Like the other groups studied in this programme, migrants from Central Gujarat maintain strong ties with their home region. One of the ways they do so is by investing in real estate and by engaging in philanthropic activities.
The real estate sector in Anand experienced a boom after the town was made district headquarters in 1997. Another boost to the sector came from the influx of people dislocated from neighbouring villages by the 2002 Gujarat riots. Rapid urbanisation led to large-scale conversion of agricultural land, construction of new housing societies, and resale of small plots to investors. Housing prices continued to rise steeply up to 2010, but in recent years the market has stabilised. According to local real estate brokers, half of the investments in real estate in Anand come from NRIs. Although this claim cannot be verified, ProGlo PhD scholar Sanderien Verstappen’s research revealed that NRIs indeed participate in the real estate market in various ways. Often parents of NRIs use remittances sent by their children to buy plots of land in the town. They invest in property because they want their children to have a place of their own if they decide to return. Others buy real estate only as an investment. In addition, some migrants have been actively involved in the real estate business, buying tracts of land and converting it to non-agricultural land for resale. In order to carry out this business, they maintain close social links with the region and visit home regularly.
(Source: Sanderien Verstappen)
The Gujarati diaspora are also enthusiastic philanthropists, frequently donating to various developmental activities in their home towns and villages, especially to help improve health care, education, and public facilities such as roads, parks, and water-purifying plants. Older migrants feel especially connected to the region and express the need to ‘give back’.
(Source: ProGlo WP 2: Diaspora Philanthropy from a Homeland Perspective: Reciprocity and Contestation over Donations in Central Gujarat, India, by Natascha Dekkers and Mario Rutten, August 2011)
Please click on the following links to see our Working Papers (WP) on the region:
Please click on the following links to see our Research Reports (RR) on the region:
Please click on the following links to see our Photo Albums on the region: