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BRAIN DRAIN: INDIA’s CONSTANT CONUNDRUM

The East India Company of England came to India in the 1600s. India was then a richer nation than Britain. It had a booming trade in agricultural goods and cottage industry with the countries on both sides of the Indian Ocean. When the British left India in 1947, India was one of the poorest nations in the world.
However, since Independence India has steadily progressed. It is now the world’s largest democracy. It has established a host of universities and technical institutes. Over time, Indian students have sought post-graduate degrees abroad, particularly in the USA. Admission to an American university is highly competitive.
By one estimate, some four lakh Indians have graduated from American/foreign universities in the coveted fields: computers, engineering, healthcare, finance and management. This large pool of specialists has sought to work in the USA as Foreign Temporary Workers rather than return home. Only a limited number gets the Green Card yearly. It is a step towards American citizenship. It remains the cherished dream of most foreign workers. The waiting list is cruelly long. The group of Indians working in the USA without citizenship status may be broadly termed as ‘BRAIN DRAIN’.
One remarkable fact about Indian students in the USA is that most of them are granted scholarships, fee exemptions, or some other ‘financial assistance’ by the American universities. For this generosity, India is eternally grateful. The cost of American education is beyond the means of a middle-class Indian family.
The long waiting list for the Green Card has one positive impact. Indian temporary workers have meticulously saved and remitted home huge sums of foreign exchange. It has consistently boosted India’s foreign reserves. On the other hand, Indian spouses living with their husbands in the U.S. have often suffered discrimination in terms of wages and type of work permitted.
NEW IMMIGRATION POLICY: President Trump has expressed his diverse views on the subject. Once he said that the foreign workers should be ordered to leave. However, the computer and other industries likely to be affected, voiced their concern. The administration relented. The fact is the foreign workers provide the technical manpower not available domestically, in numbers and at a price.
Lately, the president has unveiled a new merit-based and point- based immigration policy which replaces the existing Green Card system. It substantially hikes the quota for young and highly-skilled workers from 12 to 57 percent, a move likely to benefit thousands of Indian professionals. The president said he was proposing a merit-based immigration system wherein permanent legal residency would be given based on points for age, knowledge, job opportunities. ‘We discriminate against genius and discriminate against brilliance’. Once the new law comes into force, ‘the exceptional students and workers will stay, flourish, and thrive in America.’
It seems the new immigration policy will greatly improve India-America relations. Presently, the Indian government is a mere supplicant on behalf of the Indian temporary worker. But as the number of Indian voters in America increases with the new policy, Indian government will have a greater influence with the American decision makers. In due course, many Indians will be elected to American legislatures and will occupy diverse positions of power.
CONCLUSION: Indians living in America under the new immigration rules will no longer be slighted but praised. The term brain-drain will connote merit exported from India to America. The two countries will have a wider scope for co-operation and mutual benefit. It creates an opportunity for the Indian government to attract foreign exchange by giving generous terms to the foreign-based Indians. Tourism will increase as well. It is not inconceivable that an Indian who becomes a newly minted American citizen would come home to start a ‘made in India’ enterprise. To quote President Obama: who knowns the future president of the USA would be a woman, a Mexican or an Indian.
PREM KUMAR, 6207-144 Street, Edmonton, Canada T6H 4H8

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