The Indian-American Diaspora in the United States has historically evoked mixed feelings in India, running the gamut from envy, to resentment to admiration. Now, apparently, it is the Diaspora that feels a mixture of envy resentment and admiration every time they come home to a rapidly changing India. Even as one ponders over this improbable turn of the dice, news items such as this about the rising tide of illegal migration from India into the United States make one wonder whether moffusil India is yet to get the memo…that the green pastures of the West are gradually turning brown. Or, are people willing to sell all their worldly belongings and put life and limb at risk in their efforts to get out because the green pastures back home are still so illusory, and seemingly ephemeral?
Reading these news reports, it’s almost as if people from different states have devised different routes to migration. The above report mentions that most of the migrants are Sikhs, who, once caught, ask for political asylum citing religious persecution back in India. Of course, the very nature of illegal immigration is such that there is no way to verify these claims and they might well be from any country in the South Asian region. This would also explain why India was cited as one of eight countries that had refused to take back illegal immigrants in a Congressional Bill that sought to sanction such countries. Statistics from the DoJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review show that, from 2006 to 2009,on an average, a thousand Indians have applied for asylum every year. Whilst 450 were granted asylum in 2006,the authorities seemed to have wised up since then, with the number of approvals seeing a precipitous decline.
The other case that hit the headlines was that of the Tri-valley University scam. From all accounts, there were students who enrolled in good faith as well as those who were willingly party to the scam. With 20,000 H1-B visas reserved for those who have a masters or a higher degree from American institutions, one may well see an increase in scams such as this.
For the Indian government, handling student issues is a headache, especially since the missions are under staffed and barely able to cope with normal consular duties. This is even as the media turns the continuing saga into a pot boiler. There is the cruel step-mother in the form of the U.S. government, the over-protective father personified in the Indian government, and then there are the hapless students and their guardians, shouting from the rooftops about their mistreatment by the stepmother and abandonment by the father despite protestations to the contrary. Even though the media frenzy has resulted in some positive developments, this promises to be a long drawn out affair as the various cases wind their way through the judicial process. One wonders if there is any coordination between the nodal Ministries of External Affairs, Overseas Indian Affairs, and Human Resource Development. In the case of the students returning from Australia after the student related troubles there last year, the Human Resource Development Ministry has now been tasked with recovering the balance of the fees due to the students who have cut short their education in Australia after the change in the Australian government policies.
It goes without saying that the great Indian exodus continues largely because of the abysmal failure of successive governments to provide adequate education and generate employment opportunities to the youth. Since that state of affairs is unlikely to change any time soon, the only advice one can give the government is to create posts in its missions abroad specifically to deal with Indian student affairs!
Endpiece: All this is even as there is by all accounts, a reverse migration of professionals taking place from the United States to India, with some predicting as many as 100,000 returning over the next ten years. Whilst this can’t be confirmed independently,t he U.S. Census Bureau does show a decline in both permanent residency and citizenship figures from India.