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The Tamil Migration Cycle, 1830-1950

Christophe Z. Guilmoto
Economic and Political Weekly
Vol. 28, No. 3/4 (Jan. 16-23, 1993), pp. 111-120
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4399307
Page Count: 10
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The Tamil Migration Cycle, 1830-1950
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Abstract

Tamil migration abroad was the largest regional component of Indian emigration during the colonial era. More than 1.5 million ethnic Tamils from south India were enumerated in 1931 in other (mainly British) colonies where they had poured in during the previous one hundred years. A typical feature of Tamil emigration was the 'kangani' system in which labour recruitment from India and supervision on the plantations were in the hands of Tamil headmen. Tamil workers were sent mainly to the newly developed plantations, but they were also active in the urban economy. Ceylon, Malaya and Burma were the main recipient countries of Tamil labour. Other colonies (including French ones) received only several thousands of workers. After independence former colonies with strong local pressure groups tried and got rid of what they saw as disturbing legacy of the British period. In this paper an attempt is made to interpret migration processes in terms of migratory cycle. The cycle of migration streams is divided into three phases: perfect regulation, growing independence, government-controlled termination. These stages of the cycle correspond to the progressive constitution of a permanent migrant community in receiving countries. Such a pattern can help analyse other examples of international labour migration in the contemporary situation.

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