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Wither, India Abroad? Jai Ho – Indians Abroad?

A new normal shall return and flights will be full once again. Meanwhile, take pride as the Indian ‘can-do’ and ‘give-back’ spirit burns bright.

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People ask astrologers “When will I go abroad?” It’s a popular question in India. In the world’s population of 7.58 B, 272 Million or 3.5% are immigrants. US is home to 51Million, that’s over 20%. With such high density, it’s is causing a different kind of stir feeding into neo-nationalism and protectionism.

You can take some delight that India takes the Oscars for emigration. With 18 million it’s No 1, leaving behind China with 11 Million and Mexico a distant no 2 at 12 million. Of the 5.3 Million international students, India contributes nearly 8 lakh students!  

The Indian Diaspora is huge world over. But with Covid19 – it’s in a turmoil. Businesses are halted, tourists stuck abroad exhausting money. Parents visiting kids, students, and even Indian patients gone abroad are all stranded, and in suspended animation. The diaspora through its Indian associations, temples, gurudwaras, missionaries have reached to help with food and shelter. Not just doctors, but even attorneys are offering free services. In this adversity the best of humanity is shining through. The national carriers Air India/Indian Airlines made some 64 flights, in the first phase in May, evacuating 16,000 stranded Indians. Naval ships were also deployed to bring home, 2 lakh Indians.  Indian Missions world over, is doing a stellar job.

The Indians abroad are serving on both sides of the coin, helping families and India and the countries they live in. Selva a migrant worker in Singapore, from Tamilnadu, living in a workers dormitory said “We stay together– Bangladeshis, Thai and Chinese, in our dormitory, maintaining safe distancing and we help each other… we are catered good food from Indian restaurants. We are well cared for and we are fine. I am an electrician and I am happy doing my bit providing the essential services in Singapore”.  In Little India, Serangoon in Singapore – a temple chief said “We have an open house for  Prasadams, that make up for sumptuous meals..’ 

Perhaps its ingrained in our tribe to give back to the society in which we work and live from the inspiring times of Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa. It continues - hundreds of our professionals, are serving leading community organisations in the countries they live in. 

Every crisis, has its silver lining. Covid19 turned on the switch to digital technologies, like never before. Hopefully, our Indian techies will remain employed and busy. Our scientific talent is powering a great deal of pharma research to find a cure and a vaccine. Our doctors and frontline medical staff are earning blessings for their selfless service all over. Corporate India with thousands of Indian companies abroad has resolutely held on to sail through this period. In a recent survey by India Business Forum IBF, of CII in Singapore, 60 large corporates participated, and expressed their resolve and solidarity, to manage the crisis, and focused on employees first and the community next. 

Has the ‘going abroad’ dream soured forever? Has the ‘return home’ frenzy caught on? Over 90,000 are returning to Punjab alone and it is causing another major concern. The truth is - the world needs immigrant talent to re-build, from the ruins of Covid19. A new normal shall return and flights will be full once again. Meanwhile, take pride as the Indian ‘can-do’ and ‘give-back’ spirit burns bright.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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K V Rao

The author is Resident Director - ASEAN, Tata Sons

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