As a result of this attachment with Dharti Mata (mother earth), emigration was considered to be the worst misfortune, especially in the Hindi belt. Emigration, especially movement of the Indian people at substantial scale in India, began after the arrival of British. The British started immigrating the Indian agricultural labourers into the sugarcane growing areas of the tropics in which it was difficult for the Europeans to work in the fields under the hot and humid climates. In general, the Indians are hardworking and acclimatized to work in the hot and moist climates.
They are also eager to make money, live on the minimum and can work even at low wages as they are poor and many a times find no employment in their own towns and villages. They are thus ready to immigrate even to the distant places. In the 19th century, the English people started immigrating to those colonies in which sugarcane, tea, spices, banana and rubber were the dominant commercial crops. The first group of Indian labourers was emigrated in 1815. It consisted of convicts and criminals, transported from Calcutta (now Kolkata) to Mauritius. Mauritius became a real training ground for agricultural labourers on the sugar fields.
After 1934, many free workers were attracted by the mild and oceanic climate of Mauritius. Today, out of the total population of 3.24 million persons, there are more than one million Indians in Mauritius. Hindi and Urdu are followed and spoken by most of the people of Indian origin. For the last several years, even the prime minister of this country is Indian by origin. A big colony of about 10,000 Indians exists in Reunion Islands situated near Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The Reunion Islands also have extensive cultivation of sugarcane. People of Indian origin got settled in the rubber producing areas of Malaysia and sugarcane growing areas of West Indies.
In the continent of Africa, the Indians emigrated since the Arabs active trade in the Indian Ocean. With the help of the Arab traders, the Indian merchants established their business in the countries of Africa. The Europeans also encouraged the Indian labourers to work in their fields, to establish plantations, to clear forests for agricultural development, and to construct railways. The labourers were followed in large number by the other social elements, such as traders, small shopkeepers, moneylenders and usurers. As a result of these emigrations, there developed large Indian colonies in Natal, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Yemen, UAE and South Africa. Most of these Indian emigrants are from the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Punjab. After the Second World War, many of the colonies of Europeans were decolonized and independence was achieved by most of the African countries. Owing to these political developments, many of the Indian immigrants were expelled from the African countries.
In fact, the Indians were treated as foreigners, and most of the African countries are virtually closed to Indian immigrants. Indians began to reach the West Indies around 1840. Their number was the largest in British Guinea and Trinidad, where there are over two lakh Indians in each. They have also settled in Jamaica, Martinique and Guadeloupe in small numbers, but as homogenous groups. In Fiji, the Indians first arrived in 1874. At present, they number nearly three lakh and constitute more than half the population. These emigrants are mainly from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. At first the Indian emigrants were the labourers engaged by the professional recruiting agents, but the Emigration Act of 1922 enabled emigration to be controlled by the Government of India.
Subsequently, at the invitation of relatives or friends, emigrants freely and voluntarily followed in the track of former indentured labour, and little Indian communities sprang up everywhere with their tradesmen, craftsmen, and in some places their priests of temples and mosques. By the end of the 19th century, the emigration movement became quite numerous. The tea and rubber estates of Malaya (Malaysia) and Sri Lanka (Ceylon) also attracted the Indian workers in large number. In Sri Lanka, there are more than 3.
8 million Indians which constitute about one-third of its total population of about 16 million (1991). There are about 15 lakh Indians in Malaysia out of its total population of 26.2 million (1998). Most of the immigrants in Sri Lanka and Malaysia are from the state of Tamil Nadu.
Besides, there are numerous Indians who settled in Myanmar (Burma) and Nepal. These people out migrated from the densely populated parts of Bihar, Odisha and eastern Uttar Pradesh.