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The Great Indian Immigration

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Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs informed the Lok Sabha that  a total of 8,81,254 Indians have given up their citizenship since 2015. Therefore it is worth questioning why educated, skilled Indians are leaving the country in droves.

  • Immigration: It is the international movement of people to a destination country of which they are not natives or where they do not possess citizenship in order to settle as permanent residents or naturalized citizens.
  • Citizenship: Citizenship is the status of a person recognized under law as being a legal member of a sovereign state or belonging to a nation. In India, Articles 5 – 11 of the Constitution deals with the concept of citizenship. The term citizenship entails the enjoyment of full membership of any State in which a citizen has civil and political rights.
    • Citizenship of India may be renounced under provisions of Section 8 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 read with rule 23 of the Citizenship Rules, 2009.
  • Overseas Citizen of India: According to the The Ministry of Home Affairs an OCI as a person who: Was a citizen of India on or after 26th January 1950; or
    • Was eligible to become a citizen of India on 26th January 1950; or
    • Is a child or grandchild of such a person, among other eligibility criteria.
  • OCI card: Launched in 2005, under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the OCI card was introduced for fulfilling the demands for dual citizenship among the Indians living in different developed countries
    • The OCI card provides Overseas Citizenship of India to live and work in India for an indefinite period of time but does not provide the right to vote, hold constitutional offices or buy agricultural properties.

Background: The data released by the government in Parliament revealed that as many as 1,31,489 Indians renounced their citizenship in 2015. Until September 2021, as many as 1,11,287 Indians have renounced their citizenship.This shows that a significant number of Indians have been leaving the country every year. 

  • According to the Expat Insider 2021 survey by InterNations, 59 percent of Indians working abroad relocated for their career,a much higher share than the global average of 47 percent.
  • Close to one-quarter (23 percent) found a job on their own, 19 percent were recruited internationally, and 14 percent were sent by their employer. Just three percent moved abroad to start their own business, which is still a slightly higher share than the global average of 2 percent.
  • According to a Global Wealth Migration Review report, in 2019, India came second only to China when it came to high net worth individuals (HNIs) leaving the country. As many as 7,000 HNIs left India in 2019.
  • India has become a major exporter of healthcare workers to developed nations particularly to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, Europe, and other English-speaking countries. 
    • GCC: It is a regional, intergovernmental political and economic union that consists of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Reasons Behind Indians Moving Abroad

The data shows an alarm to the Indian government for retaining its own human resources and finding out the reasons for the same. Few reasons can be as following:

  • Eased Visa Rules: Indian competence, linguistic prowess, and a higher level of education are the triggers for relocation to countries, which have eased visa rules to attract talent.
    • The UK has granted free one-year visa extensions to eligible overseas healthcare workers and their dependents whose visas were due to expire before October this year.
    • France has offered citizenship to frontline immigrant healthcare workers during the pandemic.
  • Easy migration policies: The developed nations are easing migration policies to attract talents to boost their economy. They target Asians specifically to take up intellectual labour.
    • Countries like Singapore have opened the doors for Indians. In addition, there are Scandinavian countries, which have eased immigration rules, making it easy for Indians to move there. Above all, Indian IT professionals are in high demand in the US.
  • New Knowledge based economy: Globally knowledge economy based on scientific and technological temper has led to the growing demand for the talented pool. India became the major supplier for the talented and skilled human resources especially for European countries.
  • Enhanced opportunities: Many foreign countries, aware of the intrinsic talent of Indians as engineers, doctors, and other key service providers with English as the language of communication, are increasingly opening their doors.
    • Majority of Indians are working in big companies. The list includes Google, Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, Palo Alto Networks among others.
  • Better working conditions: Indians are more satisfied with their working hours and live-in countries where they enjoy better working hours and a better work-life balance.
  • Brain Drain situation: Indians working abroad are highly educated and generally did not find suitable careers in India. E.g. Close to nine in ten either have a bachelor’s degree (35 percent vs. 33 percent globally) or a postgraduate/master’s degree (54 percent vs. 47 percent globally). “Non-residential” Indians are becoming “not-returning” Indians, and even the “reverse brain drain” has stopped.
    • Another six percent hold a PhD as their highest level of education.
  • The passport issue: India does not offer dual citizenship so people seeking citizenship in other countries must give up their Indian passport. However, Indians who renounce citizenship can still apply for an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card, which gives them the benefit of residing and even running a business in India.
    • The Indian government has made the process of disowning Indian citizenship as simple as possible through the online process.
  • Better Rewards and Wages: India’s young, skilled labour force leaves in search of better rewards for their effort and talent. It's the overall social safety net, tax benefits that is one of the main reasons for families to relocate out of India. While the U.S. continues to be the favourite destination, Canada is quickly catching up. The idea of a welfare state is attractive where a family’s basic needs of education and health are taken care of or are available at quite an affordable price.
  • Lack of funding for research and Development:  Many science students and scientists  moved abroad in the search of upgraded labs and research facilities which are low in India due to funds.
    • Nearly 0.7 per cent of the GDP was spent every year on research and development, including strengthening of science and technology infrastructure, during 2014-15 to 2018-19 which is too less in comparison to the other countries.
  • Rampant corruption and political interference: Corruption has infected all fields in India. Educated and talented young people may find it very difficult to work in such a type of environment. Further the spread of political interference has made the working conditions worse.

Measures Taken By the Government of India 

  • There are a number of measures which the Indian government is taking to stop the brain drain, such as prioritising skill development through its National Skill Development Mission that aims to train approximately 400 million people across the country by 2022.
  • Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY)
  • Pradhan Mantri ‘YUVA’ Yojana for Entrepreneurship
  • Other programmes have been launched like Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) Programme which aims to attract talented youth to the study of science at an early stage and build the required critical human resource pool for strengthening and expanding the Science & Technology system and R&D base. 
  • Triad of Scheme for Transformational and Advanced Research in Sciences (STARS), Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC) and Impactful Policy Research in Social Science (IMPRESS) with Common objective to boost India specific research in social and pure sciences.
  • The Ramalingaswami Fellowship: For providing a platform to scientists who are willing to return and work in India. Other one is The Ramanujan Fellowship.

Conclusion

Such migrations are a case of losing the best Indian brains to foreign countries. This trend will continue to grow while India is spending on teaching students, (the IITs, IIMs and other institutes). It is crucial for India to reverse the trend by offering citizenship to bright foreigners who are studying in India. There is a need to  look for creative ways to attract both foreign and Indian talent. Increased investment in healthcare, especially in the public sector is essential as this would increase employment opportunities for health workers.The urgent need is to first understand what is compelling people to leave India. The questions about quality of life, employment opportunities, social structure, financial and social security, development, gender equality, freedom in all walks of life must be answered to stop the great immigration of talented skilled Indians.

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