In an unprecedented act of philanthropy to an American academic institution, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has given a $2 million grant to the University of Pennsylvania's Centere for the Advanced Study of India, headed by Devesh Kapur, to support its research on international migration from India.
This is the first time the ministry has ever awarded an empirical research grant of this magnitude to an academic institution outside India.
"Penn was chosen," said G Gurucharan, joint secretary at the ministry, "because it is home to the CASI, which has become known around the world as the first and only academic research unit in a United States university focused on contemporary India. We see this as a small beginning."
Gurucharan signed the agreement at a ceremony at UPenn's College Hall on February 16. He was joined among others by Rajeev Ranjan, community affairs counselor, the Indian embassy in Washington, DC; Shiv Ratan, MOIA director, financial services and budget; Rebecca Bushnell, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Penn; and Devesh Kapur, associate professor of political science. Also present were Madan Lal Sobti, director, CASI, Penn Provost Vincent Price and Ramin Sedehi, vice dean for finance and administration at UPenn.
As principal investigator of the research project, Kapur will be supported by a group of scholars recruited specifically for the purpose of conducting the research, as needed during the next four years. Kapur's forthcoming book, Diaspora, Democracy and Development: The Impact of International Migration from India on India, will be published this summer. It is the result of six-year research by Kapur and is being published by the Princeton University Press.
"I feel both honoured and humbled," said Kapur. "The funds are for research on international migration because the MOIA believes that better policies are made on the basis of sound empirical analysis. There are no strings attached for the funds that are for a set of research projects and capacity building."
The grant will be utilised for a range of research projects.
"These will include how to capture data on return migration, entrepreneurship among Indian Americans, financial remittances, knowledge flows resulting from international migration among others," said Kapur.
Migration, he said, has influenced India far beyond a simplistic 'brain drain', as migration's impact greatly depends on who leaves and why. His research, for which he spent time in India interviewing people, offers new methods and empirical evidence for measuring these traits and shows how data about these characteristics link to specific outcomes.
Sources said that the ministry has been pretty impressed with Kapur's empirical research on international migration from India and how it may affect the country in future both in economic and social terms.