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Ground Zero: Leaving home in spite of Acche Din

06:15 AM Nov 03, 2019 |

Once I had worked out the curious phrasing of the headline (For 2 nd yr, Indians on top Down Under in citizenship stakes), an interesting set of conjectures presented themselves to my mind.

In the fiscal ending June 2019, 28,470 Indians were granted citizenship by the Australian government, which is 22.3 per cent of the total 127,674 people from all over the world who are now Aussies.

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That’s almost one quarter, and if they were gathered into a hall or a field big enough to hold them, and separated into countries, would they be embarrassed? After all, India is widely touting its Achche Din and its pre-eminent position in the comity of nations, with a globe-trotting Prime Minister who moves like he has wheels on his heels or a very winged Hermes.

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And here are our brightest and best (well, some of them) who, no sooner have they paid for their pretend “higher studies” in the country of their choice, than they have contacted friends, advisors and consultants on the best ways to stay away as long as possible, preferably forever.

Last year, Australia took 17,756 desis, again 22 percent of the total number granted citizenship. At this rate, there will come a time when we won’t even have to jostle for space on the Indian sub-continent, because that particular national habit will have been taken over by the US (another favourite destination with almost 3 million Indians), or little, rich Qatar, which already has 2 million of us as migrants.

According to the Pew Research Centre, in 2017, more than 15 million Indians had left these shores. Interestingly, waves of immigration really took off in 2010.

Now I can easily understand that theywere fleeing the policies of successive Congress governments which brought this proud country to her knees, but in 2014, something great and good happened, so why has there been no slowdown? Sad to say, India remains a top source for the world’s immigrants.

But it is also a destination, and currently, a little over 5 million firangs actually live and work here. Of course they include Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and even Pakistanis, but there is a smattering of Europe, the US and the US as well.

In Mumbai at least, the East Europeans are quite visible, tired, washed out looking girls who wear the warm nights like make-up and avoid the sunlight if they can. I am often tempted to buttonhole one of them and ask earnestly, “Child, is this what you really want?”

Of course, our desi immigrants in the US are a breed unto themselves, living in well-defined areas like California and Texas, Chicago and the New Jersey part of New York.

From here they emerge from time to time to head to Madison Square Gardens and that other stadium in Houston, to hold massive rallies when our Prime Minister visits to exhort them to keep the faith and their fires burning. They do, they do.

Have they started voting in our elections yet? Not so clear about that, for some reason. In fact, one sure way to ramp up one’s sense of a national identity (proud, desi, Indian) is to try and immigrate. Distance, it is said, makes the heart grow fonder.

And there are no hearts fonder of India than those who have carefully burned their boats and gladly swapped their Indian passports for a foreign one.

Aah, the sheer luxury of never needing to come back here and still have every right to interfere with our political processes, just because they send money home every month to help with the bills.

Apparently, something like $63 billion in 2017, from 35 million people beavering away — and hoping that something comes along to make it possible never to have to return.

Meanwhile in India..

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