Tuesday, February 19, 2008


It is everyone’s city — from the Kannadiga to the Kashmiri. People have been coming in for years and more are expected to come in the future. What are the newer, younger people hoping to find here? And how are the earlier migrants faring? Prashanth G N reports on migration trends in Bangalore

Melting Pot: The concept maybe old, even cliched, yet it describes best the idea of communities pouring into an urban locale. New York was first described as a melting pot. It still is. Closer home, Mumbai is India’s first melting pot. But what about Bangalore?
Bangalore carries something of the character of the great city. Just as the world’s communities walk into New York or Mumbai, much of India’s communities walk into Bangalore.
Bangalore is special
What’s special about Bangalore? A whole lot of cultures and communities coming in over the years: Kannadigas from coastal and North Karnataka, Tamilians, Telugus, Rajasthanis (Marwaris and Rajputs), Gujaratis, Sindhis, Bengalis, residents of Bihar, Oriyas, Sikhs, Kashmiris and Malayalees. Many have trickled in over 100 years, some 50 years, and others as recently as 20-25 years. While the older communities continue to stay and grow, Bangalore expects to see in the next 10 years a rapid migration of newer communities. The melting pot will get bigger.
Higher migration
What are the indicators for this expected rise in migration? Two major ones: Nasscom has predicted that India requires 5 lakh IT professionals by 2012. And 30% of them are expected to settle in Bangalore — roughly 1.5 lakh professionals, and their families, on an average four members.
The construction industry has been growing at more than 100% every year over the past 5 years and is expected to grow anywhere between 50-80% over the next 5 years. “This means a high requirement for construction workers or manual labour — 1 lakh at least,’’ says a real estate observer. Their families would also come in. Bangalore then is expecting to see well over 2 lakh people in the next 5-8 years.
The future beckons
On the one hand, highly educated and skilled professionals are coming into the IT, ITeS and services sector, and on the other, non-educated, skilled but poor workers are entering the construction and taxi driving sectors.
While Bangalore’s IT companies have a significant percentage of professionals coming in from north Indian states, more than 70% of the labour for the city’s construction sites is from Orissa, Bihar and MP, according to an NGO study.
The unorganized construction sector, however, attracts migrants from North Karnataka too — Gulbarga, Bidar, Raichur and Bellary. “After workers from North India, North Karnataka workers form the largest composition in Bangalore’s labour scene,’’ points out Mohan Rao of an NGO studying construction trends.
The unorganised cab drivers’ sector attracts people from suburban/rural Bangalore. “A lot of people working as cab drivers for tech companies come from Channapatna, Mandya, Tumkur, Ramanagaram, Bidadi and Yelahanka. They settle down in the peripheral parts of Bangalore, paying low rents,’’ says Raman, a cab agency owner.
What does all this mean? “Bangalore is attracting a lot of people from North India, North Karnataka and rural Bangalore to its huge organized and unorganized sectors. This has been happening after the 90s. Given the trends in these sectors, you can expect more people to come in,’’ social scientists point out.
Earlier migrants
But Bangalore is also a city of older migrant communities, those that came in much before the 90s — in fact, as early as 1900.
These are traditional communities wellsettled in petty trade, community-driven business — cloth, jewellery, hardware, electrical — which is also highly organized. “This traditional business has a lot of older people continuing with it. Among the younger generation, half of them come to run the traditional business and half move into new sectors like management and IT,’’ says businessman Bharath Lal.
“While migration into the new IT and construction sectors is more than migration into the traditional-community sector now, the latter too lend a great cosmopolitan character to the city,’’ says jeweller Amrith Lal.
Bangalore has seen Bengalis, Marwaris, Sindhis and Gujaratis settled for over 50 years. These are the traditional migrant communities and not the new migrant communities of the late 90s and post-2000. They are essentially bi-lingual communities, undergoing generational changes.
Bengalis came to Bangalore in the 50s and 60s with the rise of the PSUs in the city. A number of them worked in ITI, HAL, BEL, BHEL, HMT and the like. But their children, the generation after, are now into IT, ITES and BPO. “The floating population of Bengalis is around 3.5 lakh. A significant marker of their presence in the city is the Durga Puja, organized by the Bengali Association set up in 1949. The older generation has retired from PSUs and the young people are getting into IT and engineering now,’’ says Arundhati Biswas.
Gujaratis have been in Bangalore for almost 80 to 100 years. “One of the early mayors of Bangalore was a Gujarati. From early on, they’ve been into cloth, jewellery and hardware business. While the older generation follows traditional business, some among the younger generation too continue with this — cloth and jewellery. There are some others who are getting into IT,’’ says Nitin Shah.
Marwaris too came in 80 years ago. F R Singari, one of the senior members of the community, says the early Marwaris served the British military in the cantonment for a long time. “Then they slowly began to get into the small businesses — steel, hardware, jewellery, paper, plywood, textile, iron and auto. Many have also got into electrical and computer business. Every second shop in Chickpet and SP Road is an electrical store. The younger generation is divided — 60% of them continue parents’ business, while the rest are looking at IT and MBA. We were the first to launch organised money-lending, but we are not much into that now. We are into trading now.’’
Sindhis, similar to Gujaratis and Marwaris, have been around for more than 80 years. Ram Narain Chellaram is the most famous Sindhi name in Bangalore. They too are into electrical engineering goods, cloth and automobile business.
Biharilal Mehnda says: “We are no longer into money lending. Petty business and trade continues to be our strength. The younger generation, like the Marwaris, is divided — some continue with business, others go into MBA and medical. There are still others who take up higher education but come back to run the home business.’’ Apart from these communities, Bangalore also has a significant presence of Rajputs, Tuluvas and Malayalees. Tamilians and Telugus have also historically been in Bangalore in the intellectual and skilled professions. Then there are Kashmiris in Bangalore who moved in at the height of insurgency in the Valley. They have been traditionally into handicrafts — a highly skilled enterprise.
There’s been steady migration into Bangalore. You can trace it from the Tigala community who came during Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan’s time to the present new communities coming in to the booming IT and construction sectors. Undoubtedly, Bangalore has been a cosmopolitan city with influences also of the Madras Presidency, Hyderabad-Karnataka, Kerala-Kasargod areas. People have always been coming in and there has always been co-existence. The problem arises only when there is perception and anxiety that locals are not getting adequate representation in the economy of Bangalore. The anxiety, true of all great cities, is not misplaced, because it could actually be true that locals don’t find adequate or proportionate representation in jobs. But the point, therefore, is not to turn into a Raj Thackeray. It’s certainly not right to kick out people. You have to negotiate in reasonable, democratic ways to ensure that causes for the anxiety are rooted out. If there is space for every community in the economy of a city, what’s better than that? An equal cosmopolitanism is what we should work for.


Post a Comment

<< Home