India’s Institutional Educational Problem

For years the United States has seen an influx of students from around the world seeking the benefits of one of the world’s best higher education systems. For the last decade and a half, this wave of Saudi Arabians, Chinese and African students has been accompanied by a growing number of eager Indians. However, even with the large Indian student population in this country, there is still almost no diversity in their educational and career goals. Indian undergraduates and postgraduates are focusing solely on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Business), and leaving other specialties (social science, humanities, education, etc.) to the wayside. This narrow focus on education is systematic. It is engrained in the very nature of a country that does not currently show the balanced, well-rounded academics required to become an educational power.

For the last few years, the United States embassy in Delhi, as well as its consulates in various cities around the subcontinent have opened their doors to Indian students looking to study abroad in what has been named “Visa Day.” During this year’s event, more than 4,000 students from around India arrived in the hopes of receiving visas to study in the United States. With 186,000 Indian students already in the United States, India boasts the second largest contingent of study abroad students, behind only China. In fact, this population of students is more than double the amount from just one decade ago.

However, more than 70% of these students are choosing a STEM path, leaving only a small percentage to pursue other educational fields. Further, the percentages of Indian students undertaking subjects such as fine arts, humanities, and social sciences are far below the global average of international students from other countries. Clearly, Indian students traveling to the United States do not value the American educational focus on these social and cultural fields of study. This is an issue not only for those students who come to the US seeking higher education but also for those students back in India. Indian students simply remain enthralled with and focused on pursuing STEM subjects. This needs to change.

It is important for Indians, both abroad and within the subcontinent, to realize that there is valuable education to be had beyond a STEM program. Other subjects can go a long way in not only diversifying the educational system in India but in making its student’s more well-rounded and complete individuals.

Very recently, USINPAC hosted a delegation from India, consisting of professionals and experts of the Indian education system. Most, if not all of them, echoed the same sentiment. It is time for Indians at home and abroad to embrace a diverse system of education. It will only benefit its students in the long run.

There is no denying the strength of Indian students studying science or technology or business. India boasts one of, if not the world’s strongest student and professional networks in these fields. However, it is in these other aspects of education (social science, art, culture, politics) that India has fallen behind. If the subcontinent wants to offer the most balanced, educated and diverse candidates, it is important that it begins to promote these other subjects as equally important to a STEM curriculum.

It is about time for Indian generations to realize that studying social science or a humanity does not hinder job opportunities. It provides Indian students with a more worldly and balanced education. Students in most other successful countries have already started to accept and embrace this diverse education system. India needs to catch up. It will make Indian students more competitive and prepared for jobs not only in the United States but also everywhere else in the world, no matter the field of study. Education is more than an investment into getting a job in and making the most money in a STEM field. It is about preparing students for success in the real world, whether it be in a job or in a social setting. It is about time that Indian students embrace this, be it in the United States or in India. It starts with a systematic change in mindset.

All statistics courtesy of:

Indian Women Abroad Are Not Exempt From Gender Based Violence

In 2012, the Nirbhaya rape case shook the world with its barbarity and left Indians, both in India and abroad, reeling. However, almost half a decade after the incident, even as #metoo dominates social media and news, gender-based violence continues to affect women not only in India but also in the Indian communities abroad.

According to a report published by the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, 54% of Asian women in the US (including immigrants) have experienced some form of sexual violence. The report also cites a study of 143 survivors of domestic violence in the United States, in which 64% of Indian and Pakistani women reported experiencing sexual violence by an intimate partner. However, these numbers may not accurately represent the true extent of gender-based violence. Some women and men may not report domestic and sexual violence because of cultural norms, social stigma, lack of financial support and even their visa status.

Domestic violence, in particular, is a well- known secret in many Indian households regardless of their prosperity. In April 2017, the Indian American community in the Silicon Valley was shocked when a prominent member of the community was accused and proved guilty of charges of domestic abuse. In January 2018, a woman of Indian – Caribbean origin was found murdered in New York, she was a victim of domestic abuse as well.

In addition to domestic and sexual abuse, some Non-Resident Indians have been accused of deserting their Indian wives. Many of these “abandoned wives” have had to face social humiliation in their villages and hometowns. Furthermore, lack of proper paperwork, insufficient finances, and social pressure does not allow these women to take actions against the “husbands” who have abandoned them and may already have families abroad. However, gender-based violence against women often manifests itself even before a child is born. In India and amongst different Indian communities abroad, the preference for a son has continued. In India, sex-selective abortions and female infanticides are a big problem, especially in states like Haryana and Punjab. There is also fear that sex-selective abortions and female foeticides may be occurring amongst Indian communities abroad.

The impact of gender-based violence can be long-lasting and does not only affect women, but also entire communities. For example, female foeticides and sex-selective abortions in communities may create shortages in the labor force and even lead to a “shortage” of brides in the community. This, in turn, may create a hostile environment for the surviving women, and may even increase the risk of human trafficking and forced marriages to fulfill the demands of society with the gender imbalance. The women in such environments may then also face other forms of gender-based violence such as domestic and sexual violence.

However, efforts have been made both in India as well as amongst Indian communities abroad to create avenues for women to seek help and report crimes committed against them. The Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi recently announced that all NRI marriages solemnized in India would have to be registered within 48 hours, to ensure the safety of women who marry NRIs and reduce the chances of their abandonment.

USINPAC had the pleasure of hosting a diverse delegation of experts and advocates in the field of combating gender-based violence in India and abroad. Not only did that delegation provide insight into the vile and disparaging issues that arise from gender violence and harassment, it showed that more needs to be done, both in India and outside of it. USINPAC looks forward to raising awareness of this issue.

For Indian women abroad, language barriers, racism, and visa status may create additional hurdles to getting proper help. There are several South Asian women’s help groups and NGOs, such as ASHA for Women, Sakhi, and Manavi that can assist Indian women in the United States.

Other resources available include:

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233)
1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

National Sexual Assault Hotline of the Rape, Abuse
and Incest National Network (RAINN)
1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673)

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678)

The National Center for Victims of Crime
1-800-FYI-CALL (1-800-394-2255)
1-800-211-7996 (TTY)

Children Holding H-4 Visas Worry About Their Fate

A backlog of green cards is causing more than just headaches and long wait times; it’s causing some children to question their future in the United States. Children of highly skilled workers holding H-1B visas are aging out before their parents’ green card request is being filled. Turning 21 means that these children are no longer eligible for H-4 dependent visas and are faced with deportation back to India or applying for an F-1 student visa and hoping their new visa is accepted in time. Many of these children had lived in the United States since they were toddlers and feel that they have adopted the US as their home country, now they feel that they are left in limbo, and their dreams are being put on hold.

There are currently little legislative proposals in place for these ‘legal dreamers’, but groups such as the Skilled Immigrants in America (SIIA) are spending time trying to get the ball rolling by speaking with lawmakers on both sides. They spoke with over 150 representatives according to one source. The SIIA website is full of scanned copies of handwritten letters to representatives and senators written by children and young adults who could be affected by the aging out process one day. These letters ask representatives to not forget about them and how these children came to the United States legally with their highly-skilled parents who pay taxes. The letters tell the story of how these children have come to call the United States their home, speak about their hobbies and achievements, and explains what they want to be when they grow up; many of them want to be doctors and engineers to give back to the country that has raised them.

Representative Ro Khanna of California, who USINPAC is currently trying to reach out to, issued a petition supported by the Shah Peerally Law Group PC that called on the government to “extend the H-4 visa time for H-1B dependent children beyond 21” as well as “to all them [H-1B dependent children] to benefit from the application of adjustment of status through their parents under the Child Status Protection Act.” Currently, the petition is available to sign on and has 1,730 signatures out of its 2,500 signature goal. Through the Child Status Protection Act an individual could still be classified as a child even if they are over the age of 21 and if they had aged out of the green card process due to extensive processing time. Currently, though, the delay for green cards is not due to processing time, but the backlog of people of Indian origin waiting for green cards. The problem for Indians waiting for green cards in the bottleneck that is happening rather than extensive processing times. There are a huge pool of people applying for green cards, but relatively few slots available for them each year.

Highly-skilled Indian immigrants can expect wait times up to 70 years to receive green cards and permanent residency because of the country cap that is currently in place. This cap states that each country, no matter the size or population of the country, to be issued only 7% of the 140,000 employment-based green cards given out. If a country fills it’s 5,000 applicant slots, there are no more applicants allowed, and if a country does not fill all of its slots, then those green cards are not used. By allowing unused green card slots to roll over to use in overflow areas, we could alleviate the backlog of highly-skilled Indian workers who are already within the United States and prevent the problem of children aging out before receiving their permanent residency. This solution allows for these children to continue a path of success from the country that they had always called home. Currently, though, there are no policies being discussed to help those children affected by the H-1B visa backlog.

USINPAC will be hosting a panel about the current green card backlog next month where they will discuss ways to relive the backlog. If you would like to write to your representative, you can start by finding your representative on our website. Please click the ‘FIND YOUR REPRESENTATIVE’ tab on the home screen, and on the drop down menu select the Senators/Representatives tab. From there you can select your state or search alphabetically.