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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Musings on migration of Nairs on Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2013



Migration is as old as history of human beings and often success in migration holds the key to growth and prosperity of a community. In this context it would be pertinent on Pravasi Bharatiya Divas to think of migration among Nairs in Kerala and impact of migration among Nairs in Kerala society.

Mannam on migration

NSS founder Mannath Padmanabhan was the first Nair community leader to realise the importance of migration. Seeing migration of Travancore Christians to North Malabar (Kannur and Kasaragod) Mannam devised a scheme to help poor Nairs of Travancore migrate to hilly tracts of Malabar. He got 2000 acres of land allotted to NSS from Neeleshwaram Raja and announced that any Nair who wants to migrate to that region will be given five acres of land free of cost and financial assistance. Mannam later regretted  that only 10 Nairs applied and the rest of the land was later converted as rubber plantation of NSS.

That was a peculiar story. But some  recent studies have pointed out that Nairs have the highest out-migration rate (migration to other Indian states) among different communities in Kerala. Nairs are followed by Syrian Christians.  But Muslims have the highest emigration (migration to foreign countries) rate in Kerala according to the same study.The study named Dynamics of Migration in Kerala is available on net and is written by Kunniparampil Curien Zachariah, Elangikal Thomas Mathew, Sebastian Irudaya Rajan.

This proves one thing, Nairs have tried to use migration for bettering their lives and spreading to other parts of world. Though during early times educated Nairs along with Syrian Christians had an advantage in migration compared to  other communities in Kerala, the emigration to Gulf countries which became popular from 1970s changed the scenario and Muslims definitely had an advantage regarding emigration to Gulf countries. Gulf emigration helped Muslims to grow by leaps and bounds and Nairs could not match their growth in 1970s and 80s. Money power gained by Muslim community helped them to acquire  land across the state. Nair community members seem to be sellers of land during this period.

Nairs in Indian cities and Singapore and Malaysia
During the British period educated Nairs had migrated to Madras, Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta and established a sizeable presence there. Remember Sir C Sankaran Nair entering viceroy’s executive council, TM Nair establishing himself in Self Respect Movement in Tamil Nadu.

Nairs had a strong emigration  rate to Singapore, Malaya, Burma and Fiji in 1800 and up to 1950s. It is to be noted that Devan Nair eventually became the president of Singapore. Mannath Padmanabhan while starting NSS had travelled widely in Malaya and Singapore to collect donation. In Malaysia Ravindran Menon is one of the top businessmen currently. Mahendra Chaudhry, former president of Fiji had Nair roots through his mother’s side. His father was from Haryana. During British period Ottappalam Menons established firmly in Delhi bureaucracy and they still continue it in Delhi.

The influence of Nairs in Mumbai starts from first Mumbai Mayor Madhavan. The list of influential Nairs in Mumbai is ever growing including Businessmen like Kuttisankaran Nair of Petron Engineering, CP Krishnan Nair of Leela group, GD Nair of chemical industry, Menons group of Kolhapur, Nairsons of Nagpur etc.

Gulf emigration
But such internal migrations though influenced Kerala, did not have much of an influence in Kerala economy like the impact from Gulf emigration. Currently annual remittance of Non resident Keralites is Rs 50,000 crore and Kerala economy moves forward on this strength. According to studies, more than 55 per cent of remittance is from Muslim community and around 18 per cent is from Christians.

Nairs had certain disadvantages for emigrating to Gulf. Primary reason is religion itself as GCC countries are Islamic nations. Many of the early emigrants to GCC were labourers and Nairs did not want to toil there. But those who went to Gulf as labourers or small businessmen later graduated to other jobs and big businesses and naturally Nairs lost the race.

Fortunately the development of GCC countries and availability of white collar jobs have increased Nair emigration to GCC. Now Nairs are also among big businessmen in Gulf; examples are Ravi Pillai, Bahrain based tycoon, C.K Menon of Behzad group based in Qatar and PNC Menon of Sobha group based in Oman.

Attitude of successful Nair Migrants to Kerala
Though Nairs who migrated to other Indian cities have prospered, their second and third generation have totally become Delhites, Mumbaikkars, and Tamils and lost touch with home. Thus Nair community in Kerala is not benefitting from out-migrant Nairs. On the other hand emigrant Muslims always invest in Kerala and that lead to Muslim community’s growth. Nairs need to learn a lesson from this and emulate the example. I wish those who read this do something for their poor brethren in Kerala. NSS can start a wing to help Nairs emigrate and coordinate emigrant Nair organisations. Nair Service Society organisations in other countries be given affiliation.

Let me conclude the write-up remembering winners of Pravasi Bharthiya Samman of Government of India. They are Sasi Tharoor who won Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2004, C.K Menon who won in 2006, Billy Nair ANC, member of South African Parliament winner of 2006 award and Dr Ravi Pillai who won in 2008.

1 comment:

  1. You are right there are many Nairs migrated outside Kerala in Bangalore,Mumbai,Pune,Delhi,Hyderabad,Chennai,Kolkata,Mangalore,Mysore,Pudicherry,Etc. Even Migrated to Outside India and are in very good positions. What i saw most of the new generation forgetting their roots and also assimilating to host states culture and Inter Caste marriages which is on the highest side outside kerala for Nairs. Probably 50-60%. Not Really Sure where we are heading

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