Dakshina Kannada (erstwhile South Kanara) district - known as DK - is located in the southern coastal belt of Karnataka. The district was historically part of the larger Canara region, which also included the other coastal districts of Udupi and Kasargod (now part of Kerala). The district of Dakshina Kannada includes five taluks (administrative sub-divisions) and has a total population of 2,083,625. There are three major religious communities - Hindus (68 per cent of the population), Muslims (22 per cent) and Christians (8.6 per cent). Hindus, the majority community, consist of several caste groups including the Bunts, Mogaveeras, Billavas, Shivalli Brahmins, Gouda Saraswat Brahmins, and Lingayats.
Mangalore is the largest city and economic centre of the district. The city has been at the centre of the diversified industrial and commercial growth experienced by Dakshina Kannada since the 19th century. Agriculture and trade in agricultural products have been the major traditional economic activities of the region. Mangalore continues to be the largest port of the state and the ninth largest in India. New Mangalore Port handles around 75 per cent of India’s coffee exports and the bulk of the cashew nut trade. Major industrial enterprises are also located there, including Mangalore Chemicals and Fertilisers, Kudremukh Iron Ore Company, and Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals.
The DK region has a large service economy and a thriving banking industry. Three major nationalised Indian banks - Corporation Bank, Canara Bank and Vijaya Bank - originated in Mangalore. The presence of several old Christian missionary educational institutions, Mangalore University and several engineering, medical and other professional colleges has made the region an important centre for education in India. The region also has a very well developed health care sector.
Over the last decade, Mangalore has emerged as a significant IT outsourcing hub, with major players like Infosys, Wipro Infotech, and Thomson Reuters setting up there. A Special Economic Zone is also being planned in the city. Reflecting the rapid growth and economic development of the region, Mangalore has a booming real estate sector, with several important companies, such as the Bearys Group, Prestige, Thumbay group and Yenepoya Group, originating from the city. Economic opportunities and lifestyle advantages have placed Mangalore amongst the major emerging ‘global cities’ of India.
Migration from Dakshina Kannada can be traced to the pre-modern age, when artisans and craftsmen moved to other parts of India. During this phase, trade links with other parts of the world were forged, mainly through Mangalore port. Significant connections with West Asia were first established when Arab traders visited the region in the 4th century CE. Later, during the colonial period, trade expanded to several ports such as Aden, Muscat, Ceylon, and Goa.
The trend of migration continued in the post-colonial era, especially to Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay). To escape poverty and with dreams of prosperity, members of various communities began to migrate to Bombay in the 1950s. With the success of these migrants, reliance on agricultural land declined and a new money-centred economy, heavily dependent on remittances from Bombay, emerged. During this period, there was a significant flowering of public displays of religion among the nouveaux riche, especially the Bunts. A process of cultural revival, involving the building or restoring of temples and shrines and the organisation of annual religious festivals, was fuelled by migrant resources.
Since the 1970s, the Gulf has become an important destination for migrants from the region, leading to the establishment of transnational networks that connect people living abroad with their home towns and villages. Employment opportunities in the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatarhave attracted migrants from Dakshina Kannada, especially semi-skilled and unskilled labourers. International migrants constitute 12.65 per cent of the total district population (NSS 2007-2008).
NRI activities in Coastal Karnataka:
NRIs from various communities of DK support a range of social welfare organisations and development projects in the region. Most of these initiatives aim to meet the needs of their own communities. For example, NRI organisations in the Gulf countries organise cultural events, support marriage expenses, generate employment opportunities, and contribute to the maintenance of religious institutions in the region. NRIs contribute especially to the development of education. They also play an active role in reviving and reinforcing the cultural and linguistic traditions of their particular communities, encouraging ‘cultural education’ both in the diaspora and at home. Three important communities with transnationational connections in the region are:
Bunts: Following land reforms in the 1970s, many Bunts – a landowning agricultural community - migrated to Bombay and the Gulf. Many set up successful businesses in other places but maintained ties with their home region. Their link with the land is demonstrated in the organisation of and participation in yearly Bhuta rituals. These elaborate all-night ceremonies, involving drumming and the ‘appeasing’ of land-based spirits, began to be revived in the 1980s especially by Bunt NRIs.
(Source: Leah Koskimaki)
Mogaveeras are a fishing community of DK. Members of this community migrated in large numbers after changes in the local economy and landholding patterns made traditional fishing practices unviable. They have a smaller presence in the UAE than other communities, but like other DK groups they too try to help members of their own community in the home region, especially by helping them find employment and contributing to local charities.
(Source: Leah Koskimaki)
Bearys are the largest Muslim community of Dakshina Kannada. From the 1960s Bearys too began to migrate to Bombay, most taking up low-end jobs in the shipping and hotel industries. The 1970s oil boom opened the doors to Gulf migration, and many Bearys joined this migration stream. Beary NRIs also maintain strong kinship and social networks with their communities at home. Gulf-based Bearys are notable for funding and spearheading welfare initiatives in the region, especially in education and health.
(Source: Sulagna Mustafi)
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