Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Ancient Indian scriptures refer to the world as “one family”.
While this idea of a global village is gaining popularity, our sense of nationalism still looks upon Indians who leave the country to take up residence overseas as non-resident Indians – a separate class unto itself.
According to reports from the United Nations (2015), over 244 million people live in countries outside their countries of birth. In this context it is important to note that Indians make up the largest diaspora population in the world. Over 16 million NRIs live in countries outside India.
As of 2013, reports from the United States said that there were over 2 million Indian-born immigrants in the country. If we include Americans of Indian descent, this number comes up to 4 million. 2015 reports from the UK also paint a similar picture. The data says that over 7.4 lakh Indians now live in the UK.
Let’s look at the numbers from another part of the world. Some 2.2 million Indians are living and working in the Gulf countries. South Africa alone has a 1.3 million strong Indian community, which includes those born in India and their descendents.
Now, let us take a look at why so many Indians are living abroad and continuing to move abroad.
A burgeoning population has made India one of the most populated countries of the world. India’s population, as of 2016, was 1,266,883,598. Finding adequate opportunities for such a large population is a considerable challenge. According to the National Science Foundation, a United States government agency, there were about 950,000 scientists and engineers of Indian origin in the US in the year 2013.
This is an 85 percent growth in the number between 2003 and 2013. Educated Indians prefer to plug the demand between the demand and supply for scientists, engineers, and doctors rather than hunting for opportunities back home.
India is one of the biggest Information Technology and outsourcing services provider in the world. Companies such as Genpact, TCS, Infosys, and Wipro have made a mark in the EU and in the US and offer large scale IT and BPO services. It is but obvious that sustaining such a large industry will require a number of workers in the industry to go overseas, at least for long periods of time.
The socio-political system in India is riddled with a number of evils that make life difficult. Staunch caste and religious rules dictate life in the country. Gender inequality is rampant and so is corruption and pollution. Reservation, while intending to protect the interests of the underprivileged, often keeps deserving candidates from claiming rightful opportunities. The political influence on social life is significant and medical and healthcare facilities often out of reach of the lower rungs of society. The idea that migrating overseas will give one and one’s family a better life is one of the dominant sentiments behind India’s great emigration numbers.
In India, a traditional emphasis on education means that most parents dream of sending their children abroad for higher education. With an increase in the disposable income of families, this dream is increasingly becoming a reality. According to the Indian Students Mobility Report 2016, the growth in the number of students going abroad is at an unprecedented high. Last year, the growth in the number of students going overseas for higher education was pegged at 17.8 percent. Most of these students head out to the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and prefer to start working in these countries after their education.
The “Videshi” Dream
The “Videshi” dream is one of the few vestiges of a colonial legacy that India has not been able to outgrow. It seems to be a matter of pride for Indian families to send their children abroad – both for studies and for work. The remittances are great for the economy, too.
While some important issues, such as the lack of support for senior citizens back home, remain in the shadows, states such as Punjab, Kerala and Gujarat thrive on the dream of the young ones going to “foreign” countries and earning big bucks.
As long as the lure of a golden faraway land exists, more indians will continue to seek their fortunes outside their homeland.