We are destined to be drawn to the source. Pour water, it goes down to earth; lit fire and watch its flame moving up the sky; in spring, migrant birds return where they came from.

Trinidad’s lady Prime Minister revisiting her village in search of her roots few years back evoked a strong nostalgia among many non resident Biharis I spoke to. She reminded me of a circle of season and of life. To them she was the head of the flock of migratory birds who were pushed out of their natural habitat in harsh seasons and who, despite having tasted abundance of food in distant land, love – again and again - to return back where they came from. Human being may have forgotten to follow their instinct to return, the emotions inside draws them magnetically to their source.

Symptomatic of a desire to return to the roots after having seen many seasons of life, reverse migration is defined by economists narrowly as it covers the only shram shakti – labours. Cynics may even pooh pooh that claim saying why labours should reverse when they get more money and diverse exposure outside. What they tend to forget that you don’t leave your home only for belly. Nor you return back only because your tummy has swollen.

Keeping aside however, for the time being, this vital debate of shram shakti flocking together to their natural habitat, I raised the subject before some members of erstwhile business families from Bihar, retired civil servant, and some NRI from US who visited India for Pravasi Bhartiya Divas. I noticed similar twinkle in their eyes – that you saw in Trinidad’s PM’s eyes - and an air of nostalgia surrounding their mood – as they say Bhumi Abaar dake in Bengali. Unsure of how and when, they echoed and shared stories of third or fourth generation of prosperous migrant family ready do any thing to trace their roots.

Let us ask our country cousins, who are out of habitat, what they feel about the issue. Let, in this section, us explain how the story of migration from Bihar began...

Girmitiya Route Map


’Diaspora’ refers to people who left their homeland and migrated to foreign countries. There are two distinct groups that make up the Bihari diaspora.

The first wave of Bihari diaspora occurred in the 19th century, after the abolition of slavery in England in 1834. Freed slaves refused to work in British sugar and rubber plantations in the Carribean and Pacific islands, south america and South Africa. At that time, with widespread poverty and famine, many Indians were desperate for work. The British Empire advantageously met the demand for labour in their overseas colonies by sending people from rural east India, including Bihar. Some went willingly; many were recruited deceitfully, and most never returned.

The second wave occurred in the late 20th century when Biharis voluntarily left India to seek education and employment in the more economically prosperous countries of the world.