by Diditi Mitra

Western Union

Prominently Displayed on the Highway

As our bus hurtled down the state highway in the district of Ludhiana, ‘Western Union’ popped into our field of vision. The presence of Western Union, a company via which money is remitted internationally, signals the presence of migrant households in at least those villages. We also presumed that the immigrants from that area were likely to have traveled to America, given that Western Union is an American company. Perhaps as they rode away from their homes, or came back for a visit, they were reminded of their duty to support the family back home., preferably by using Western Union’s services.

Western Union, the company, is an old American institution. It began as The New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company in 1851. Soon thereafter in 1856, the company’s name was changed to The Western Union Telegraph Company. The change in name reflected the links that were now established between the telegraph lines in the eastern and western parts of the United States. Nineteenth century was a time when America was in the throes of industrialization as well as a time of increased immigration from various parts of the world, including Asia. Over the years, Western Union has grown as a company. Here’s a video of how Western Union’s “culturally sensitive” marketing techniques in India furthers the company’s goals to make it an integral part of Indian immigrant lives.

As for remittances itself, journalists for the Times of India, Anahita Mukherji and Ashley D’Mello, reported that Kerala and Punjab are the two states in India that receive the highest remittances from its residents. Furthermore, India is the country that receives the highest remittances in the world, followed by China, Mexico, the Philippines and France. There was a slight decline in the remittances from 2008 and 2009, Mukherji and D’Mello write. But, the figures increased again in 2010, this time to amounts even higher than 2008.

Interestingly, Parasuraman, director of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, asserts that along with being the highest receiver of remittances, India also has the highest number of return migrants – over 1 lakh (or 100,000) people return annually out of the 6 to 8 lakhs that emigrate every year.

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