The diaspora and disasters

As the Kerala floods have shown, the diaspora can shape political and economic responses
Between August 8 and 20, the devastating floods in Kerala claimed nearly 500 lives, displaced over a million people, and directly affected over a sixth of the State’s total population. The State government’s latest report estimates the losses to be more than the State’s annual plan. In the fiscal 2017-18, Kerala’s annual plan outlay was pegged at Rs. 26,500 crore. Moreover, according to the just concluded Kerala Migration Survey (KMS) 2018 — conducted by the Centre for Development Studies in Kerala — while remittances received in Kerala accounted for approximately Rs. 85,000 crore, much was used for housing and improving human development. This was the worst flood in Kerala since 1924. In the deluge then, the State received 650 mm of rain compared to 2,344 mm this time. However, the impact was similar. The difficult task of rebuilding the State has begun and contributions to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) have crossed more than Rs. 1,680 crore. The Chief Minister is confident that the State would be able to overcome the shortage of funds by mobilising its own resources and through support from different quarters. For Kerala, the most important support system is the Malayali diaspora across the world.
Kerala has close to 3 million migrants from other States to replace Keralites who left to West Asia (also known as replacement migration). Have they been affected by the floods? Are they likely to participate in the reconstruction of the economy of Kerala or leave for their home States for better opportunities? The preliminary results of the KMS indicate a decline in emigration. Finally, we should ask ourselves what the future of emigration, return emigration, internal migration and remittances from Kerala will be in the coming years.

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