Lessons in ‘racial abuse’ for students following foreign dream


By: Akhilesh

Last week an Indian ‘student’ (Gurjinder Singh) committed suicide in Australia. The reports which flashed on various news channels and newspapers alleged ‘inability to find a job’ as the reason for Singh’s extreme step. If that is the case, I fear a large number of students from India, including Himachalis, who aspire to travel abroad in search of a better career, are at great risk. Immigration consultants have especially been wooing students from small towns and therefore it becomes important for students from places like Himachal to understand the perils of pursuing a foreign dream.

I do have friends who studied in Australia for the sake of ‘global exposure’ and came back to work in the motherland (India). They were wise enough to understand present economic situation and near impossibility of fulfilling their ‘dream to work in a foreign (White) land’ in times of recession. But not everyone who goes to a foreign country for studies thinks it that way. Most of the times it is the name and fame associated with ‘working in foreign land’ that allures youth to take this step. It doesn’t matter whether you work as a taxi driver or as software engineer abroad. The professions I have mentioned in the previous lines are just to mark a contrast. For the functioning of our social system as a whole every job is essential and for that matter every profession deserves due respect. What I mean is that people who go abroad for studies might not think of doing the same work in India as they end up doing abroad to sustain themselves.

Coming to overseas education scene in Australia, the intake of Indian students in the year 2007-08 was 39,015 according to the Australian immigration department. It grew by 34% annually from 2006-07 onwards. With recession and fall of markets, the sentiment of growth (in intake of overseas student) also was hit hard. We (I and my Australian-returned friend) discussed the matter and raised four aspects of the plight of Indian students in Australia. They were:

1. Growing interconnection between Indian agents (education consultants) and debased colleges. She says these colleges run with the help of educational consultants in foreign countries (like India, China, etc.) who make sure that cash flow is steady at the cost of false hopes to students who approach them. It makes a lot of sense if we see the growth of educational consultants and rise in number of students going for overseas studies.

2. Popular perception among the masses and in media that Australia is land of vast opportunities. Indeed, Australia is land of vast opportunities, but a foreigner should always keep a track of employment scenario and economic growth in a developed nation. Today, developed nations are outsourcing their work to developing nations. It has actually two sides – some countries outsource due to shortage of labor in that industry and others outsource to cut down costs. In any case, there is a slump in the employment sector in that country and given Australia’s service-based economy (70% of GDP), expecting a job after a job-hunt is foolhardiness in these bad times when the world economy is in turbulence.

3. Bait of permanent residency. This was started by the Australian government under PM John Howard. It was started in order to give a boost in overseas education. But it evolved the meaning of ‘education’ to ‘residency’ and soon saw a large influx of students in hope of making fortunes by getting a permanent residency. This possibly created a mismatch in demand and supply and led it to present a situation whereby the Australian government is now mooting to set a limit for intake of foreign students.

4. Living costs are high and not many are prepared to take on the ‘cultural shock’. In Australia the living cost is high and to sustain a living standard most of the students have to take up part-time jobs. They come across many things which they are never told. Like many are told they will be able to sustain by doing part time, but no one gives them clear picture of how many hours they can work and about the work they might have to do.

I was wondering and pitying at the same time for poor students who fall prey to crooks in the society but, one also wonders the role the Indian government is playing. Nothing big like this under the sun goes unnoticed from the government’s eyes, but still nobody cares about it.

The problem of cultural conflict (Racial abuse of Indians by Australians)

The racial abuse of Indian students at the hands of Australians was the talk for past few months in every house in India. Now when the government (Australian) has reluctantly accepted that it is a case of racial abuse, the question that arises is whether it is the ‘cultural difference’ which has brought out sudden outbursts from Australians or is it ‘threat to potential employability’ in times of recession.

If we take a look at Australia’s history, it appears Australia is among the few countries that can be termed as “countries of immigrants”. Australia has immigrants from all parts of the world who exist along with ‘aboriginals’. The Australian government has been facing internal conflict for a long time with ‘Aboriginals’. They (Aboriginals) too have reasons to be in conflict given the bloody history which involves their ancestors. Now if Australia is land of immigrants then they are well used to being multicultural. So the abuse on Indians still remains racial but the reason is not cultural differences, rather it is the second one mentioned over which is enough for fanatics to justify their ruthlessness in times of drudging economy.

It came out that this conflict might also have happened between ‘Lebanese immigrants’ and ‘Indian immigrants’ over ‘potential employability’ and my friend was shrewd enough to mention that this divide will remain between any two communities. Whatever (racial abuse of one group at the hands of other) Australia has witnessed recently will soon be forgotten after some time but given this trend of settlement of immigrants, another round of such madness is bound to happen, maybe next time it wont be Indians but some other community.

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  1. After the 'anti-north India' stand in Mumbai…i came across an int wall graffiti at a petrol pump near my res…may be it was there but before this no one took notice…"BAHAR WAALE KO YAHAN PESHAB KARNA MANA HAI" ! By the way kissi ko bhi bahar … kyon karna chchahiye?!

  2. i'm an indian who came to australia as a student. today, i'm an australian citizen and i can tell you this – i love australia and the culture of my adopted homeland. today, i live in australia as an australian. if only all immigrants did that….

    most of the recent indian students (esp. the ones from small towns) behave in ways that would bring out disgust and loathing towards them anywhere in the world. if i had a choice, i'd have all of them deported – does that make me racist? i grew up in a small town in himachal and these are the feelings that we had towards 'outsiders' who came to our town and behaved badly (mostly people from punjab). countless times, fights broke out, sometimes people were killed as well. mostly because they were behaving the way they did. 

    i remember the way immigrants (nepalis, bangladeshis or even biharis) were treated in himachal (or punjab for that matter). comment?

    to be honest, most indians who come here, wouldn't be able to point australia out on a world map. i have seen students eating lunch with their bare hands, in public. now that would be OK in most indian towns and villages, but trust me, in the streets of sydney, that looks pretty bad (i so wanted to say 'disgusting'). imagine australians coming to some himachali towns and walking around in bikinis. not good.

    as far as racism goes, it is targeted towards a community usually, based on the general impression that people have built up over the years. just like the chinese immigrants are usually taken as 'money-hungry' or the middle eastern people are taken for 'violent and lawless'. i have chinese friends who are not money-hungry and i have lebanese friends who are peaceful. indians have that 'poverty' impression. hence the attitude.

    this is a very honest and factual view of things as they are. 

    as far as the whole blaming of agents goes, what about using your own brains for once? do the research. what about the parents who are taking huge loans to fund these overseas studies? can they read? if the answer is yes, then they should do some research before sending these kids away. yuo cant blame mcdonalds for worldwide obesity, can you? its the fat people who should be eating salads but eat quarter-pounders, that are to be blamed. they are the ones who spend money on these things.

    in the end, all it comes down to is – you are in someone else's country. if you don't behave accordingly, what do you expect?

    • @VT- All your observations and suggestions are accepted as they project a first hand account on many aspects. For instance 'cultural ettiquetes and behavioral expectations' are few things which sometimes have become bone of contention between immigrants and natives even in india, so i can understand what they might turn out in Australia.

      Second and very valid point raised by you; parents sending children to overseas with massive loans. Most of the times these humble people who mainly depend on agriculture give in to the demands of their lads, in the hope of great fortune which their son will make overseas (Movt. of people from Punjab in large chunks to canada). They do not have adequate knowledge about these issues forget about research which becomes plus point for educational consultants. Here am not blaming whole set of consultants as i know few honest myself but unscruplous elements are everwhere. 

      Ya i do agree that you have to behave accordingly as per the laws and 'cultural ettiquttes' irrespective of the country you belong to but violence could never justify for tensions rather composite dialogue and understanding is the need of the hour. We do have state law enforcing agencies and civil societies which can take this cause right handedly. 

  3. Sab jagah sab kuchch NAHIN "chalta hai" ! Live in Rome as the Romans do.I've people in Gold Coast and nearby Bribane…no probs only if…?1

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