The prosperity of the Coastal Andhra region, which covers the deltas of the Godavari and Krishna rivers, is mainly an outcome of its rich agricultural land and the availability of water. Since the late 19th century, when dams on the rivers and extensive irrigation canal networks were constructed, Coastal Andhra has been known as one of the rice bowls of India. Agricultural prosperity, experienced especially by landed owner-cultivators,created a dynamic economy based on agriculture, agro-processing industries, transport, and trade. The region has also long been a major hub for education and political activism in the state.
Vijayawada, the second largest city of the region, is the cultural, historic, and commercial capital of Andhra. It is often twinned with the town of Guntur. Although they are situated in different districts (Krishna and Guntur), these cities share a similar socio-economic profile. They have benefitted economically by their location in the Krishna delta, becoming urban centres catering to the surrounding agrarian region. In addition, these towns are education hubs for the surrounding rural areas and towns, hosting many private and public colleges and universities including Acharya Nagarjuna University, Vignan University, Guntur Medical College, RVR & JC College of Engineering, Andhra Christian College, Andhra Loyola College, VR Siddhartha Engineering College, NTR University of Health Sciences, Hindu College, and many more. Consequently, this region has produced a large cohort of highly educated professionals, especially doctors, engineers, and scientists, many of whom have migrated abroad. Apart from high castes such as the Brahmins, this kind of skilled migration to the US is predominantly seen amongst the dominant land-owning communities such as the Kammas, Rajus, and Reddys.
The US has become the dream destination for many upwardly mobile young people from Coastal Andhra. Highly-skilled professionals migrated abroad in two waves: the first wave in the 1960s and 1970s consisted primarily of doctors and scientists, while the second wave consisted of engineers who mainly went to the US for IT jobs. Affluent Telugu NRIs are found in large numbers along the East and West coasts of the US as well as in the Mid-West. Consequently, the term ‘NRI’ has a visible presence in the region, appearing in the names of several medical and technical institutions, and is used to connote quality.
Diaspora philanthropy and investments in Coastal Andhra:
NRIs from Coastal Andhra, who live mainly in North America, contribute to their home region and communities in diverse ways, ranging from philanthropy to investment. First wave migrants from Guntur are particularly well known for their philanthropic initiatives and activities. There are many ways in which the Telugu diaspora engages in philanthropy, and for a variety of causes:
• Many Hindu NRIs make donations to renovate temples in their home villages or to build new ones.
• US-based Telugu organisations ATA (American Telugu Association) and TANA (Telugu Association of North America) organise meetings and cultural events every winter across Andhra Pradesh, culminating in conventions in Hyderabad.
• Building schools and orphanages and supporting scholarship funds are some of the ways in which NRIs try to help poor children in the home region to get basic education – through both individual and collective efforts.
(Source: Sanam Roohi)
The second-wave migrants from Coastal Andhra – mainly software engineers who migrated to the USA and other countries after the IT boom of the late 1990s – often invest their savings in real estate in their home region, especially in fast-growing regional towns such as Vijayawada and Guntur. These migrants – unlike those from Kerala or Mangalore – usually do not send regular remittances to support their families at home; instead, they invest in property in order to augment personal and family resources. Such NRI investments have had a significant impact on the real estate markets in the region by driving up demand and prices. Another ‘NRI effect’ is the advent and new popularity of the ‘flat system’, replacing the independent bungalows, which were preferred by the provincial middle classes earlier.
(Source: Carol Upadhya)
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